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Focusing on a small but pivotal episode in Alfred Hitchcock's life, director Sacha Gervasi has crafted a well-rounded tale (excuse the pun) that might frustrate anyone seeking further insight into the scurrilous legends associated with the big guy.
Centring on the fraught but key relationship between ''Hitch'' (Anthony Hopkins) and Alma (Helen Mirren), Gervasi certainly plays to the strongest cards in his hand. Taking up with their relationship following the fanfare for North By Northwest, it's Hitchcock's choice of material for his next film, Psycho, that alienates him from even his most ardent supporters.
This is where the strengths of Alma as a partner, confidante and editor come to the fore. Able to turn a blind eye to Hitchcock's lecherous affection for his leading ladies, it's her amusing jibes at Hitch's ''corpulent'' stature that show a dynamic in the relationship seldom focused on in many historical accounts of Hitchcock's life.
Even plumped up in a fat-suit, Anthony Hopkins doesn't bear a great resemblance to Hitchcock but when it comes to comedic timing and exaggerated mannerisms he is spot-on. Mirren, too, is her usual riveting self, bringing a warmth and humility to her role as the thankless shadow whose own writing skills are sacrificed to her full-time role taming the incorrigible director.
Best thing: The quirky chemistry between Mirren and Hopkins.
Worst thing: Occasional forays into soap-opera land.
See it with: Anyone who has seen Psycho.
Director: Sacha Gervasi
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette, Danny Huston, Jessica Biel, James D'Arcy, Michael Wincott.
3 stars (out of 5)
By Mark Orton.