This first-ever big screen Alfred Hitchcock biopic is fine as very light entertainment, but maddeningly unfulfilling as anything else.
Focusing on the roughly one-year period that Hitchcock spent developing and completing 1960's Psycho, the drama tries to balance the intriguing machinations behind the making of his horror masterpiece with the banal domestic tensions between Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) and his long-suffering wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren). The problem is that Hitchcock emphasizes the Hitch/Alma relationship, which frankly is far less interesting than the making of Psycho.
This misstep is compounded by the genius casting of James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins – the resemblance is uncanny – and a nice turn by Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh. Every time they're on screen, or when we're on the set of Psycho, the movie fascinates. You want to see more. But with Gervasi and screenwriter John J. McLaughlin opting for the old "this is really a love story" approach, they spend far too much time on a will-she-or-won't-she subplot regarding Alma's friendship with dashing screenwriter Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), who had worked on a couple of Hitchcock's early '50s pictures with her.
This pseudo-romantic angle – and Hitchcock's boiling jealousy over it – is, in a word, lame. It completely bogs down the story. Which is unfortunate, because Mirren is good (if far more attractive than the real Alma Reville, who was a tiny, mousy woman; Linda Hunt would have been better in the role), and it's nice to see Mrs. Hitchcock get some credit for the invaluable creative input she gave her husband's films. But Gervasi, an experienced screenwriter directing his first feature after Anvil! The Story of Anvil, bends over backwards so much to suggest Alma's influence over Hitchcock that she damn-near comes across as the true brains behind Psycho, with Hitch depicted as little more than a helpless old man. And that is patently ridiculous.
As for Hopkins, well, even if the prosthetic makeup was good – which it isn't – it still wouldn't make him look much like Hitchcock. As it is, he merely looks like Fat Bald Anthony Hopkins. He sounds pretty much like Hopkins as well. His performance is all right, but as the real Hitchcock was such a distinctly recognizable figure, all I could think is that this movie might have been better served by some advanced motion capture technology, provided a digital Hitchcock could be as convincing as a digital Gollum.