I wanted it to be a summation.



Film I began watching Family Plot with mixed emotions. Hitchcock, himself, of course, didn’t know this was to be his last film; he wasn’t interested in career commemoration or summation. As ever he wanted to produce an entertainment for his audience, this time subverting the caper plot by presenting two couples with the same goal neither of which are particularly likeable, kidnappers and confidence tricksters, testing our expectations of what makes for a loveable rogue. But I wanted it to be a summation. I wanted it to gather together all of his favourite motifs, be shot in the old style, to be as solidly funny, to takes its cue from an overwhelming sense that you should be like Cary Grant and be polite to the world no matter what it’s throwing at you or expect sinister happenings around every corner like Jimmy Stewart. The funerial aspects not meant, inadvertent.

Instead, though it is witty in parts and the performances of the four leads especially Karen Black and Bruce Dearn capture some of the rag-tag sense of screwball mayhem, throughout you’re gripped with a sense that Hitch’s final film is one of his experiments outside of his comfort zone, this time an attempt to ape Peter Bogdanovich’s What’s Up Doc? or a Blake Edwards comedy, his equivalent of Woody Allen's Anything Else which expected people to turn up because it featured the piefucker (that joke (c) Kevin Smith). As the minutes tick by, you wish that some of his brilliance will assert itself, that outside of his cameo he’ll give us (or if I’m being honest, me) a final wink and a thank you for enjoying his work. But it doesn’t happen and my lasting impression is that Hitchcock’s final film was really Frenzy, just as The Tempest was spiritually Shakespeare’s final play. Both worked beyond that, right through to their deaths, but there wasn’t much more that needed to be said.

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