Old Geezers Out to Lunch

Old Geezers Out to Lunch
The Geezers Emeritus through history: The Mathematician™, Dr. Golf™, The Professor™, and Mercurious™

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Movies by Mercurious: Dec. 8

I very much wanted to like Hitchcock, as its subject is one of my favorite film personalities, and it features three very entertaining actors: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, and Scarlet Johansson.

Alas, it falls short, through no fault of the actors, but mostly the screen play. The film quite can't decide what it wants to be: in-depth discussion of the creative process of making Psycho; examination of the complicated and fascinating marriage between Hitchcock and his wife Alma; or a depth psychology portrait of Hitchcock's strange and disturbing relationship to his leading ladies.  As a result, it does nothing very well.

The movie fails in the biggest way as regards the psychological portrait of Hitchcock's inner life. Ed Gein, the Wisconsin psychopath whose story serves as one major influence on Hitchcock's film, is presented as some sort of alter ego from whom Hitchcock takes personal and career advice. In nothing I ever read about Hitchcock was there ever any hint that he was this far down the path of bat-shit crazy, so this plot thread seems utterly contrived, and just plain silly.

The depiction of the historical problems and creative solutions on the Psycho screen play and filming and interesting, but it is hardly new ground, and you could get most of this from a short magazine article on the subject.

The plot thread that works best, and the one that the director should have taken as the core of the movie, is the unusual partnership between Hitchcock and his wife, a story that's not told often enough, and one that could have been amplified to great effect in the hands of these two fine actors. The few moments of extended interplay between husband and wife represent the only genuinely engaging moments in the film.

Scarlett Johanson is of course today's equivalent of the classic Hitchcock blonde, and if he was working today, she is exactly the actress he would long to work with. She does a passable job of playing Janet Leigh, but isn't exactly allowed to shine with any range here (then again, Janet Leigh wasn't an actress of great range, herself). But the presence of Scarlett Johanson wasn't enough for this Geezer to be able to strongly recommend the movie.

It's fine if you've already seen the other holiday films, but not really worth your time otherwise.

Geezer quotient:  70/100.

Better than Hitchcock, but still slightly behind the other big end of year movies, is Life of Pi.  I was very curious about how this excellent, fairy-tale-like novel would reach the big screen. I can think of no other director that could make a more valiant effort than Ang Lee, whose Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is one of my all-time favorites, but this isn't in that league, despite the many accolades and the likely nomination it will receive for Best Picture of the Year.

There is no point in discussing the plot here, just as describing the book plot is nearly impossible. Suffice it to say that both are about Big Questions, including fate and the existence of God.

The film is gorgeous visually, though, and is probably well worth seeing for that reason alone. But don't attend expecting it to duplicate the experience of the book. Movies rarely do, of course, but with a book that was so magically successful, meeting expectations in film is nearly impossible.

Geezer Quotient: 88/100

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