Alfred Hitchcock is noted as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and rightfully so — his body of work comprised of over 60 films is skillfully composed highly dramatic and eclectic from beginning to end. So pulling back the curtain on the legend in his own medium was only a matter of time a how'd-he-do-it biopic that could pay respects to the collected works while revealing the master's process. Hitchcock directed by Sacha Gervasi (Anvil: The Story of Anvil) pays its respects but also reveals another unexpected quality of the auteur's behind-the-scenes life: it wasn't all that dramatic.
Anthony Hopkins slides into the silhouette of the recognizable director and does a reasonable job nailing his cadence and posture. Side by side with his wife Alma (Helen Mirren) who as the movie reveals was the director's close collaborator Hitchcock strides confidently into the world of independent cinema for the first time balking at studio heads who demand something more audience-friendly than the gruesome Psycho. Investing his own money into the film Hitchcock risks everything to turn the story of murderer Ed Gein into a high art horror picture. He finds a leading lady in Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) a script in a screenwriter with mommy problems and a closeted actor to portray the sexually exploratory Gein.
And that's about it. Hitchcock disguises the usual stresses of moviemaking as major hurdles even representing Gein as a specter who haunts Hitchcock's every decision. Aside from the brief suspicion that Alma abandons him mid-production for charming writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) which feels stuffed in and meandering rather than intrinsic to the making of Psycho there's little explanation for Hitchcock's anxiety and downward spiral. The film even dabbles in Hitch's well-known infatuation with his leading ladies — explored to a terrifying degree in last month's The Girl — but places the director on too high a pedestal to ever dig deep.
The real star of the show — and perhaps one who would have made a better subject for feature film — is Alma a complex second fiddle overshadowed by the greatness of Hitchcock. Mirren once again delivers a lively performance as a woman desperate to live her own life; the scene when she lets loose on Hitchcock is easily the high point of the movie. But like the audience who unknowingly appreciated her work behind-the-camera Hitchcock is too obsessed with the man at the center of it all to open up and give the character or Mirren the spotlight.
Hitchcock's time period flourishes and camera work are presented simply (Gervasi keeps hat tipping to the auteur's oeuvre to a minimum) while Danny Elfman whips up a score that riffs appropriately on longtime Hitchcock collaborator Bernhard Hermann's works. But there's no hook to elevate the film from a puff piece and even the biggest Alfred Hitchcock fan will be grasping for something more.
Poor Donna Keppel (Brittany Snow). Some years back her parents and brother were slaughtered by Richard Fenton (Jonathan Schaech) a teacher who had developed a psychotic fixation on her. Richard went to an insane asylum but he broke out and now he’s back in town just in time for Prom Night where he resumes his pursuit of Donna and knocks off some of her friends for good measure. Bringing up the rear is dogged Detective Winn (Idris Elba) desperately trying to nail Fenton as the body count mounts. Sooner or later--and it’s much later unfortunately--Donna will come face to face with Fenton one last time. With characters as one-dimensional and dumb as these there’s not much the cast can do except stand around in their prom outfits waiting to get killed off. As the deranged killer Schaech stares glares and skulks around. Leading lady Snow widens her eyes and worries accordingly throughout while Elba tries to inject a little intensity into the stock role of the cop on the case. Working from a bad screenplay by J.S. Cardone first-time helmer Nelson McCormick displays little enthusiasm--either for the genre or for this particular film. The scare tactics are hackneyed and usually involve characters surprising each other--a gag that gets really old really quickly. When one character mutters “This is getting silly. Enough already ” we couldn’t agree more. And we’d add “boring” to that statement. It should be noted however that there’s an awfully high body count for a film rated PG-13 even if the film isn’t as bloody as one might expect. McCormick and Cardone have re-teamed on the upcoming remake of The Stepfather and if their collaboration here is any indication horror fans may have reason to be afraid--very afraid.
Top Story: Wedding Bells Ring for Rosie
Comedian Rosie O'Donnell and her lesbian partner, Kelli Carpenter, were wed Thursday in San Francisco, a day before the California state attorney general is slated to file a lawsuit that may end the controversial weddings, Reuters reports. O'Donnell and Carpenter said they were motivated to tie the knot after President Bush proposed a Constitutional amendment Tuesday banning same-sex weddings and cited the recent flood of gay marriages in San Francisco in his remarks. "We were both inspired to come here after the sitting president said the vile and vicious and hateful comments he did," O'Donnell said after kissing her bride.
Gibson Feels Judged on his Passion
Director Mel Gibson told Jay Leno Thursday on NBC's The Tonight Show that he feels his film The Passion of the Christ has been unfairly prejudged over the past year, The Associated Press reports. "For a year, it's been nothing but nasty editorials and name-calling," Gibson said, but he added he is adopting a loving attitude, "even for those who persecute you." The director also alleged that a copy of the script was obtained "nefariously" before the film was completed, leading to "all these accusations of anti-Semitism," which he has vehemently denied--and he never considered changing his script because of the protests. "I don't know any director, any artist who would bow to this kind of pressure. It's un-American," Gibson said. The film grossed a whopping $23.6 million on its opening day Wednesday, prompting Leno joked in his opening monologue, that since the film was doing so well, "there's now talk of turning it into a book."
Shock Jock Stern Voices Opinion on Ban
Radio personality Howard Stern had more than a few words to say Thursday morning regarding being yanked off a half-dozen stations for his controversial radio show. "They are so afraid of me and what this show represents," AP reports Stern told his legion of devoted listeners. The heightened anxiety created by the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake stint during the Super Bowl halftime show has put pressure on broadcasters to clean up their acts, and Clear Channel Communications took Stern's show off the air Wednesday in a dozen markets, including San Diego, Calif. and Pittsburgh, Penn., until Stern met its programming guidelines. "Janet Jackson is now forgotten, and I'm on the front page of every newspaper," Stern complained Thursday morning.
A Friends Reunion?
It's a split vote between Friends cast members on whether they would return for a reunion show. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, AP reports Courteney Cox Arquette, Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow didn't think it would be a good idea. "I think that would cheapen it," Aniston told the magazine. "Do you remember The Brady Bunch reunion show? You remember the Happy Days reunion show? Were they ever good? Cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap." The three male actors on the hit sitcom, however, were more amenable to the idea. Matthew Perry suggested, "Talk to me in 20 years. If I'm on really hard times, maybe I'll be pitching one," while David Schwimmer said, "…If it meant I get to revisit the relationships and work with those writers and actors again, then that would be a good thing."
AFI Fetes MPAA's Jack Valenti
The American Film Institute honored the Motion Picture Association of America's president Jack Valenti with the Charles Heston Award Thursday for his contributions to the industry, AP reports. The ceremony was held in Los Angeles.
Clay Aiken Donates Clothes to Museum
Last year's American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken saw his clothes--a white Italian-made shirt, black pinstriped pants and the shoes he wore on the show--on display at a museum in Raleigh, N.C., AP reports. "Today's popular culture often becomes tomorrow's history; we are pleased to have objects connected to Clay Aiken's early success," Elizabeth F. Buford, director of the history museum and the Division of State History Museums, told AP.
Rowling Invited to Billionaire Club
J.K. Rowling, the wealthy author of the Harry Potter books, has joined Forbes magazine's list of the world's billionaires, Reuters reports. Rowling, once an unemployed single mother, saw her wealth rise to $1 billion after the publication of the latest Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and the success of the movie franchise, the magazine said Thursday. The founders of the Internet search engine Google.com, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, also made the list.
Lane, Broderick Say Goodbye to Producers--Again
After making a splashy comeback Dec. 30, original stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are leaving their hit Broadway musical The Producers April 4, AP reports. The (real) producers of the show declined comment Thursday, although John Barlow, a spokesman for the show, told AP casting is proceeding and said that the new performers will be announced when they're signed. Since Lane and Broderick's return, the show has been doing well and last week took in more than $1.3 million, the highest gross on Broadway, AP reports.
Role Call: Theron Goes Aeon Flux
Charlize Theron, currently reaping numerous awards for her startling performance in Monster, is in negotiations with Paramount Pictures to play the futuristic assassin in a feature film based on the MTV animated series, Aeon Flux. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the MTV series revolved around a killer known for her extreme style, cool attitude, tight clothes and propensity for dying. The feature is targeting a June start with Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) in the director's chair.