A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hitchcock isn't a full biopic of legendary director Alfred Hitchcock but rather a snippet of his personal and professional life as he made one of his most famous movies, Psycho. There are a few scenes of disturbing violence: the murder of a brother; a dead, bloody woman being dragged into a bathtub, and a killer who sleeps with his dead mother. The frightening shower scene from Psycho is depicted, with Hitchcock himself holding the butcher knife to elicit realistic screams from actress Janet Leigh. The language is comparatively mild ("ass," "damn"), but there are allusions to infidelity and sexual obsession, plus shots of kissing, groping, and women in their underwear.
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What's the story?
In 1959, Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) -- considered the master of suspense -- was 60 and looking for a new project. Tired of making the same kind of films, he found his inspiration in a bestselling but macabre "true crime" book, Psycho. Unfortunately, the executives at Paramount Pictures didn't want to greenlight the movie, so Hitchcock agreed to fund Psycho himself (mortgaging his mansion) in exchange for distribution. The movie depicts his process for casting and making the difficult-to-shoot horror film, as his relationship with wife/collaborator Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) suffered under the strain of his work and his obsessions with food, drink, and his blonde leading ladies.
Is it any good?
Audiences hoping for a substantive look at what motivated Hitchcock or even why he was known for being so tyrannical and controlling (especially of his beautiful starlets) may be disappointed. Director Sacha Gervasi offers not a sweeping biography of the English genre master but a brilliantly acted look at Hitchcock's marital life and personal demons during the development and making of Psycho. In the same way that HBO's John Adams is really the story of John and Abigail, so HITCHCOCK is actually the portrait of the fascinating marriage and partnership between Hitch and Alma.
The acting, as you'd expect from Academy Award winners Hopkins and Mirren, is absolutely top notch. As Hitch, Hopkins is corpulent and hedonistic and self-absorbed, while Mirren's Alma is his rock, his nursemaid, his first and final and most important editor and critic. A trio of fine actresses play the different women who supported Hitch through the Psycho shoot -- Toni Collette, Scarlett Johansson (as Leigh), and Jessica Biel (as Vera Miles), while James D'Arcy is striking as the closeted and intense Anthony Perkins. One thematic thread (of the real Ed Gein repeatedly being in Hitchcock's mind) is unnecessary, but otherwise this is a smart, humorous tribute to the director and his ultimate muse, his wife.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Hitchcock is about making a movie. In what ways has the movie industry changed since Hitchcock's time? How is it the same (for example, Hitchcock says a director is only ever as good as his last project)?
Is this really a biopic about Hitchcock or just a small glimpse of his life? What do we not know about Hitchcock? How could you find out more?
The relationship between Hitchcock and his wife is explored. What do you think of their marriage? Should Alma be credited with the making of Psycho?
- In theaters: November 23, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: March 12, 2013
- Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson
- Director: Sacha Gervasi
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some violent images, sexual content and thematic material
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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