| November 28, 2012 - 9:31 PM

Alfred Hitchcock was fond of casting icy blondes as his films' heroines and subjecting them to dreadful perils. But in the backstage comedy-drama "Hitchcock," the most troubled relationship is between the legendary director (Anthony Hopkins) and his dark-haired wife, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren).

Peeking at the private man behind Hitchcock's carefully cultivated public image seems fair, given his voyeuristic tendencies. Director Sacha Gervasi and screenwriter John J. McLaughlin stake no claim to the mordant wit and nailbiting story lines of Hitchcock's classics. This is two films, shuttling between Hitch's strained domestic life and his battles with studio execs and defenders of morality during the 1959 filming of "Psycho." The filmmakers take at face value the ghoulish uncle image he affected for publicity purposes, never probing the dark emotional issues motivating a merchant of menace.

Hopkins has a wonderful moment when he stands in the theater lobby for the first public screening of "Psycho," acting out the shower-scene assault with waving arms in time to the screams rocking the theater. But his acting is superficial impersonation.

The scenes of life with Alfred and Alma are tepid soap opera. Mirren is pleasant as Alma, but the film is unable to convey why she felt such loyalty to a charming but coldblooded control freak. That's Hitchcock's greatest mystery, sadly unsolved. (Rated PG-13.)


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