HITCHCOCK


Hitchcock the movie is something one might describe as having an identity crisis (which might be appropriate considering the subject matter).  It’s a few parts mid-life crisis; a few parts artist at a cross roads; a few parts sexual obsession; a few parts middle aged love story; a few parts homage.  In the end I’m not sure whether it holds together or whether everyone is so brilliant at their jobs, that they cover up the fact that it doesn’t really hold together.  I strongly suspect the latter, but I didn’t really care.  I was too thoroughly entertained to really worry about it.  Whatever else it is, Hitchcock is a ton of fun and I’m not talking about Sir Alfred himself.

The basic storyline revolves around the great (in size and stature) director desperate to do something fresh and challenging after the success of the very commercial and lightweight North by Northwest.  So, naturally, when his eyes land on a novel that everyone thinks is pure trash, what can he do but read it.  And it has all the elements he is looking for: serial murders, grave robbing, incest, Oedipus complex, transvestitism, and most important of all…the chance to be the first director to show a toilet in an American film.  And thus Psycho was born.

The title role is played by Anthony Hopkins.  Except for the girth, he really doesn’t particularly look like the man himself.  This was apparently a conscious decision.  When he was put in the makeup, the less like Hitchcock he seemed (that’s one of the odd things about art—the more realistic it is, the less realistic it is).  But when Hopkins opens his mouth and that stentorian voice carefully enunciates his lines in lugubrious wave after lugubrious wave, all you can see is Hitch.

Hopkins is supported by Queen Elizabeth II as Alma Reville (or Helen Mirren as she is more commonly known).  The rest of the case is basically name that impersonation with the more memorable being James D’Arcy as a slightly more than effeminate Anthony Hopkins and Scarlett Johansson as a perky, hey, look at me, I’m Janet Leigh.  Perhaps most surprising is Jessical Biel doing a very credible job as Vera Miles.  Meanwhile, Toni Collette wears glasses and Kurtwood Smith reprises his role from That 70’s Show by playing the head of the ratings board.

The extremely witty script is by John J. McLaughlin.  The extremely witty direction is by Sacha Gervasi (a bit far from Anvil: The Story of Anvil, perhaps—or perhaps not).  

BAD GIRLS: Movie reviews of Julia and Easy Virtue


What do you do with a problem like Julia? Half the time I found myself screaming at the screen at how ridiculous and inexcusably stupid the seemingly never ending plot turns were. The other half I was riveted to my seat just having to know how the whole damn thing was going to turn out. Julia is an alcoholic barfly (what my father once called a good time girl) with the sociopathic tendency to lie and manipulate people into getting what she wants. The irony is that she’s so successful at it, fascinatingly so at times, it just keeps digging her in deeper where she has to lie to fix the problems caused by her previous lies (just like that great sociopathic liar Craig’s Wife played by Rosalind Russell). Whatever one may think of the plot, the real driving force of the movie is the magnificent Tilda Swinton. She does one of those Bette Davis, go for broke, I don’t give a damn what I look like, performances. It’s written by Michael Collins, Camille Natta, Aude Py and Erick Zonca (maybe the number of writers is why there are so many plot turns) and directed by Zonca (who directed the beautiful The Dreamlife of Angels). In the end, one has no choice but to admit it is highly entertaining in spite of the questionable plot runs and an ending that seems too curt, as if the authors had just gotten too exhausted to fully resolve things.

Easy Virtue is based on a play by the witty Noel Coward, though the movie doesn’t seem to have that much wit to it. Whether this is Coward’s fault or the adaptor’s (Sheridan Jobbins and Stephan Elliot) is unclear since I’m not familiar with the source material. In the end, one spends most of the movie watching a young woman try to ingratiate herself into a family when she is so obviously so out of their league. There’s no suspense because you want the character to fail and it can be a little annoying spending an hour and a half waiting for someone to realize the obvious. The acting is fine, with Colin Firth (as a shell shocked war veteran that does a wicked tango); Jim McManus (as a dipsomaniac butler); and Kirsten Scott Thomas (as the “there’ll always be an England” aristocrat) taking the honors. Jessica Biel, somewhat ironically, is a bit out of her league, but she has such luscious lips and is so wonderfully American, you know she’s going to win the battle.