Psy­cho schmico

De­spite the fas­ci­nat­ing sub­ject, this silly, highly du­bi­ous biopic wastes a starry cast, writes Tara Brady

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS -

An­other week, an­other lu­di­crous panto his­tory: fol­low­ing hot on the heels of the un­in­ten­tion­ally camp Hyde Park on Hud­son, Hitch­cock lands in cinemas with the dull thud of a corpse mi­nus the Bernard Her­mann ac­com­pa­ni­ment. A daft tale of mys­tery and peep­holes fash­ioned around the pro­duc­tion of Psy­cho, Sacha Ger­vasi’s slight, friv­o­lous drama goes through the mo­tions with all the en­thu­si­asm of a late fran­chise prequel.

Un­nerved by the sug­ges­tion that he might like to re­tire af­ter North By North­west, master of sus­pense Al­fred Hitch­cock (An­thony Hop­kins) de­ter­mines to shake things up with film of Robert Bloch’s pulpy take on the Ed Gein mur­ders. The stu­dio is rather less keen on the idea, leav­ing Hitch to shoot the pic­ture with his own money, us­ing the crew from his TV show.

Mean­while, on the home front, there are mar­i­tal dif­fi­cul­ties to con­tend with. By now, Alma Reville (He­len Mir­ren), Hitch­cock’s long time col­lab­o­ra­tor and part­ner, is ac­cus­tomed to the di­rec­tor’s blondes (Scar­lett Jo­hans­son and Jes­sica Biel do the hon­ours as Janet Leigh and Vera Miles). Al­fred, how­ever, is rather shaken by the idea that Mrs Hitch­cock may be run­ning around with screen­writer Whit­field Cook (Danny Hus­ton).

Can they pos­si­bly put aside their dif­fer­ences and make Psy­cho against all the odds? Well, d’uh.

Ger­vasi, the screen­writer be­hind The Ter­mi­nal and di­rec­tor of the sub­lime Anvil: The Story of Anvil, is an in­ter­est­ing tal­ent who knows well to pep­per the pro­ceed­ings with Hitch­cock­ian cuts and chi­canery. But oc­ca­sional flair and an A-list cast are sim­ply not enough to carry this er­ratic ori­gins story.

Tonally, Hitch­cock can’t quite de­cide be­tween wink­ing at its au­di­ence – it’s a bird, just like in The Birds, ged­dit? – and psy­chodrama. Ed Gein him­self un­wisely pops up as a man­i­fes­ta­tion of Hitch­cock’s in­ner tur­moil, only to dis­ap­pear for long stretches. All at­tempts to in­vig­o­rate the his­toric de­tails with thrills and spills – a last minute edit, a domestic walk­out – fail to con­vince.

We’re left with the com­fort of watch­ing very fa­mous peo­ple dressed up as other very fa­mous peo­ple. Mind you, An­thony Hop­kins is so en­tombed in pros­thetic jowls there might be any num­ber of peo­ple un­der there.

You’ve lost that scream­ing feel­ing: Al­fred Hitch­cock (An­thony Hop­kins) di­rected Vera Miles (Jes­sica Biel)

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