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).  

CEDAR RAPIDS


A movie that came out of nowhere and got mixed reviews, mainly because it’s formulaic and predictable. However, it’s actually much better than that. It’s an example of the sort of movie that can result from the book Save the Cat by someone who has talent (here writer Phil Johnston)—by no means a classic and it takes no chances and does nothing new, but it is involving and gives middle brow movies a good name. Ed Helms plays Tim Lippe, a total innocent, so innocent he doesn’t know when he’s having an affair rather than falling in love. Helms and Johnston, and director Miguel Arteta, do something nice here; usually characters this innocent are unbearable, but Lippe is someone you actually like, like so much that you fear for him losing his innocence. He’s a happy and contented fool, so happy and contented you wish he could stay that way. He is sent at the last minute to an insurance convention where he is to win a religious award for his company and soon starts drinking, having sex with a married woman, taking drugs and hanging out with a prostitute. He also, more importantly, becomes fast friends with the decadent Dean Ziegler, played with a joi de vivre and so fully self aware of his faults by John C. Reilly that you soon realize that Lippe’s in good hands. The story works itself out pretty much the way you think it’s going to, though it’s entertaining enough on the way there. The attack on religion and Christianity is a bit too easy and on the nose (as is the casting of the reliable Kurtwood Smith in the role of spiritual leader, a character he’s been playing at least since Dead Poet’s Society). It’s the least imaginative part of the film, but it also gets the job done. If you want to feel good, it’s a perfectly satisfying film to see.