It’s 1959, and Alfred Hitchcock is reflecting on the critical and commercial success of North By Northwest, one of the finest films of his career.
Piqued by a reporter’s inference that he might want to retire on such a high, a resolute Hitchcock finds himself drawn toward a violent, pulpy novel by author Robert Bloch, based on the crimes of the infamous serial killer Ed Gein. A book called Psycho.
Appalled by the contentious and visceral subject matter, Paramount refuses to finance the film, their doubts shared by Hitchcock’s wife and gifted collaborator, Alma Reville (Mirren). However, Hitch will not be dissuaded and, determined to have a stab at Psycho, mortgages his house to finance the $800,000 project himself.
Anthony Hopkins is terrific as Hitchcock, with Oscar-nominated make-up aiding his remarkable transformation into the corpulent, urbane genius, compelled to turn an indifferent novel into a brilliant horror film that will change the genre forever.
Mirren is even more impressive as Alma, Hitch’s wife and professional equal - as a writer, editor and sounding board. Accomplished, attractive, and quietly essential to her husband’s success, she is also fully aware of Hitch’s weaknesses, peccadilloes and obstinacy.
Their marriage has become one of separate beds and dry kisses, and she finds herself courted both professionally and personally by Danny Huston’s ambitious and oily screenwriter, Whitfield Cook.