Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Movie Review - Psycho

Psycho (1998)
Starring Anne Heche, Vince Vaughn, Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen, and William H. Macy
Directed by Gus Van Sant
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

***Warning -- Spoilers ahead***

Why?  That's the question I've posed for the last fourteen years since I first found out that Gus Van Sant was making a near shot-by-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece (and my favorite movie of all time) Psycho.  What's the point?  I still don't get it even after I watched the film -- I guess it was some weird "experiment" -- but I will say that the film was better than I thought it would be.  That being said, I also thought this was going to be one of the worst moviewatching experiences I'd ever have so it wasn't going to take much to prove me wrong on that front.  However, the remake comes nowhere near close to the brilliance of the original.

Admittedly, I was actually quite impressed with Anne Heche's take on Marion Crane.  Janet Leigh is so iconic to me in that role and has an undeniably devious take on the character.  Not that the viewer ever gets a sense that Leigh's Marion "deserves" to die, but there is a slight feeling that she gets her appropriate comeuppance in the end.  Heche, however, plays Marion a bit more innocently and I admired that quality.  Unfortunately, Heche is only in the film for 35 minutes and things fall apart rather quickly at that point.

Vince Vaughn is simply painful as Norman Bates.  His Norman is visibly off his rocker right from the very first time we lay eyes on him -- he nervously laughs at the end of his first line and it felt so forced and "actor-y" that it took me out of his performance immediately.  Anthony Perkins played Norman as an outwardly normal guy who just so happened to be nuts.  Vaughn's Norman is simply nuts.  I despised nearly every line reading by him and when the last two-thirds of the movie shifts its focus towards him, it disappointed.  Similarly, Julianne Moore has been told to play Marion's sister Lila as a seemingly "butch" tough gal which didn't fit for me at all and felt incredibly off-putting.  When Lila gives Norman a take-down kick to debilitate him in the final basement scene at the Bates Motel, I couldn't help but think she should have yelled "Girl Power!" and it nauseated me with the political correctness of the change.  

The film updates the story to 1998 and I can't help but think it proves to be a detriment.  While it takes place in modern times, everything felt incredibly dated.  By replicating nearly everything from the 1960s -- sets, camera shots, music, costuming -- I don't quite understand the point.  Maybe it was done to allow the slight changes that are enacted -- like Norman masturbating when looking through the peephole as Marion prepares to shower or the odd flashes of rolling thunderclouds as Marion meets her demise in the shower -- seem appropriate in tone or something.  Nonetheless, those changes evoked chuckles from me and didn't add a thing to the tale.

The question still remains -- why was this remake needed?  What does it add to the discussion of Hitchcock's Psycho?  The answer seems to be that the story itself still holds up and the camera shots and dialog still work even in a modern-day setting.  However, it's not even remotely comparable in terms of quality and tension to the original.  Do yourself a favor -- if you've never watched Hitchcock's classic, rent it and revel in its awesomeness.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

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