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'Hitchcock' is a curiously staid portrait of iconic director

Posted 7:15am on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012

PG-13 (violent images, sexual content); 98 min.

Alfred Hitchcock is enjoying something of a comeback these days, with his 1958 film Vertigo recently supplanting Citizen Kane on Sight & Sound's list of all-time best films and his 1963 chiller The Birds getting the biopic treatment on HBO's The Girl.

In that film, Sienna Miller played Tippi Hedren, whose life as the object of Hitch's unhealthy obsession became a living hell, her presumably promising career stunted forever because she refused his lecherous supplications. In Hitchcock, Sacha Gervasi's lively but uneven chronicle of the production of Psycho, the director's preoccupation with unattainable blondes hasn't yet reached its most florid expression, being contained within the peepholes and window-blind slats he uses to spy on the shapely starlets who populate his movie sets and the Paramount lot.

For all his creepy tendencies, Hitchcock is portrayed mostly sympathetically in Hitchcock, in which Sir Anthony Hopkins plays the corpulent British auteur with a combination of hauteur and playfulness.

Hopkins throws himself into the performance with his characteristic commitment. Still, Gervasi has made a strangely staid and dutiful film about a movie that changed cinema forever -- from the way violence could be depicted onscreen to how films would be shot and financed thereafter.

Rather than take risks of its own, Hitchcock is content to be a safe backstage drama and ultimately reassuring portrait of a marriage. There's something tonally off about the master of anxiety, neurosis and disquiet being depicted in a story this cozy.

Exclusive: Angelika Dallas; Angelika Plano

-- Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

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