Oooooookay. It’s finally here. Gus Van Sant won’t call it a remake, so I’ll call it a “rendition” of Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. You can call it a marketing ploy if you want.
Director Gus Van Sant, using his “get out of jail free card” from “Good Will Hunting”, has made this film in what he considers the same spirit as restaging a play. The argument is not out of line. What’s the point in watching a thriller more than once when you already know the ending? Because you enjoy the work. Nothing will quite match seeing the story told the first time, but if it’s strong enough, you’ll enjoy seeing it more than once. Some directors have even remade their own films, as Hitchcock himself did with “The Man Who Knew Too Much”.
HOWEVER, when a theatre company mounts a new production of a Shakespeare play, if it’s any good, they have a specific take or concept for it to make it relevant to the audience, they they will make adjustments to the play to support the idea. Van Sant only wants to learn how to make a thriller by reproducing a good one. The main change he made is all the clothes look like they came from some wacky store on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. The color photography is amazing, but I’d attribute that to cinematographer Christopher Doyle, the Australian working in Hong Kong who is responsible for nearly all of Wong Kar Wai’s films. The strongest idea Gus apparently had was that he wanted to do it.
The movie doesn’t stink. The performances are good, potentially great, especially Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates, but he owns a scene just for doing that psychotic giggle of his. The director just shouldn’t have married himself to the original storyboards and pacing so he could have found his own rhythm and voice. Otherwise, we’re better off just watching the original over again.