Great Director Would 'Not Approve' Of 'Hitchcock'

Few directors put up as convincing a public mask as Alfred Hitchcock. Few actors are as compelling as Anthony Hopkins, who plays the great man, or Helen Mirren, who plays Alma, his wife. But even with these two Oscar winners, the reviewer says Hitchcock is one portrait of a marriage we could have lived without.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's go from a legendary athlete to a legendary director, Alfred Hitchcock, who is getting the multi-screen treatment this fall. HBO premiered a drama about him a few weeks back, and now critic Ken Turan has a review of another movie in theaters this week, simply titled "Hitchcock."

KENNETH TURAN: Few directors put up as convincing a public mask as Alfred Hitchcock. Few actors are as compelling as Anthony Hopkins, who plays the great man, or Helen Mirren, who plays Alma, his wife. But even with these two Oscar winners, "Hitchcock" is one portrait of a marriage we could have lived without.

The year is 1959 and the premise is that the director is simultaneously worrying about his relationship and his chances of getting the groundbreaking chiller "Psycho" off the ground. Hitchcock as usual runs the plot past Alma.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HITCHCOCK")

ANTHONY HOPKINS: (as Alfred Hitchcock) Just think of the shock value, killing off your leading lady halfway through.

TURAN: Her response is right to the point.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HITCHCOCK")

HELEN MIRREN: (as Alma) Actually, I think it's a huge mistake. You shouldn't wait till halfway through. Kill her off after 30 minutes.

TURAN: "Psycho"'s bizarre plot unhinges everyone in Hollywood, but this film takes pains to show that it's right in line with the director's voyeuristic tendencies.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HITCHCOCK")

HOPKINS: (as Alfred Hitchcock) I'm just a man hiding in the corner from my camera, watching. My camera will tell you the truth.

TURAN: Unfortunately for this film, Hopkins is unable to push his performance past the point of impersonation. And "Hitchcock" can't convey any sense of urgency about its characters' problems.

It's hard to get worked up about the fate of "Psycho," or the potential sacrifices the Hitchcocks face. Giving up fois gras flown in from Paris in favor of some produced in Barstow, California is not particularly compelling.

Though the official publicity line is that "Hitchcock" is some kind of a love story, the film's sensibility is too odd to make any kind of romance convincing. There's a listless quality to this production, and invasions of privacy aside, Alfred Hitchcock would definitely not approve.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and for the Los Angeles Times.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME MUSIC TO TV SERIES, "ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS")

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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