It was and remains one of the most legendary and influential films of all time. But what went on behind the scenes of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho? In Hitchcock, directed by Sacha Gervasi (who is, thankfully, British and got his start with Anvil! The Story of Anvil), we are allowed a glimpse into the grueling process of what it took to make this groundbreaking feature. On the heels of the success of North by Northwest, Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins), seeks to make an entirely different sort of film--something that will truly shock and excite his audiences. After consulting tirelessly with his assistant, Peggy Robertson (Toni Collette) about possible projects, Hitchcock comes across Robert Bloch's then recently released crime novel, Psycho.

Instantly taken with the prose, Hitchcock knows in his heart that the luridly horrifying story of Ed Gein is destined to be his next film. The only problem is, the studio head of Paramount, Barney Balaban (Richard Portnow), doesn't quite see the financial return of such a scandalous project. After consulting with his wife, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren, the "wizard" of female bodies over 60)--whom Hitchcock always seeks the counsel of in any filmic matter--about whether or not she thinks it is worth the risk of mortgaging their home and financing the film themselves, Alma supports him to the utmost. And so, it is with this precarious vote of confidence that Psycho is allowed to go into production--with the not so gentle finagling of Hitchcock's agent, Lew Wasserman (Michael Stuhlbarg).

Once Hitchcock is allowed to indulge in the fantasy of creating the film of his dreams--one that truly challenges and tests his directorial talents--he is also allowed to indulge in the fantasy he has with every film he makes: To mold, control and be with his leading lady. In this instance, Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson), best known for her work with Orson Welles in Touch of Evil, is the object of his lust. Throughout Hitchcock, in fact, the director uses the phantasm of Ed Gein to instruct him on what he should do about his "impulses." Although Hitchcock insists, "I'm just the man hiding in the corner with the camera--watching" (an assertion that is so very Rear Window), it is this addiction to voyeurism that begins to drive him a bit--pardon the term--psycho during the production of the movie.

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Meanwhile, Alma is enduring struggles of her own, particularly the temptation of spending time with another married man named Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston, why yes, the half-brother of Anjelica Huston and also husband of Virginia Madsen). "Whit," as they call him, is a hack writer with sycophantic tendencies that have been known to work on Alma in her moment of weakness and self-doubt. With "Hitch," as they call him, completely consumed by the world of Psycho and the actresses in it--including Vera Miles (Jessica Biel, making for two women Justin Timberlake has fucked in this list of cast members)--Alma is especially prone to flattery, regardless of how overtly insincere it might be.

When Hitchcock catches on to Alma's dalliance with Whit (they've taken to adapting his novel at his house on the beach), he begins to lose all sense of sanity and well-being--factors that greatly affect his ability to adequately direct. With the image of Ed Gein persistently hounding him, he points out the grains of sand on the floor that Alma has tracked in from all of her time logged at the beach. Hitchcock's paranoia finally brings him to the breaking point in the form of physical collapse. With his health at risk, so too, is the timely completion of Psycho.

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As the standoff between Alma and Hitchcock escalates, he warns, "Beware all men are capable of murder." But, part of the reason Hitchcock's devotion to Alma is so unwavering is because of her strength in the face of his anger and petulance. Even when he derides her attempt to collaborate with someone else on a project as a waste of time, noting, "Women can never see the truth when their heart is involved," Alma endures with the aplomb of a mute royal. And, as we soon learn, it is she who saves the picture from total failure with her shrewd editing and insistence on the use of a score during the shower scene.

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The aim of Hitchcock is not necessarily to solely illuminate the drastic actions it took to make Psycho a success, but really, to humanize a director that has so often been portrayed as a caricature without a personal life and immense inner turmoil. The complex relationship that Hitchcock shared with his wife was so significant to his accomplishments as a director, as well as his need for reassurance from someone who would give an honest opinion about his talent. The persistent snub of Hitchcock by the Academy was somewhat remedied with a Lifetime Achievement Award from AFI in 1979, in which he graciously thanked Alma by saying, "I share my award, as I have my life, with [Alma]."

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