Wednesday, March 27, 2013


He said it himself, “A boy’s mother is his best friend.” 
The twisted mind of Norman Bates has been studied by film critics and theorists for decades. After Alfred Hitchcock immortalized the character penned by Robert Bloch in his novel of the same name, “Psycho,” Bates became the inspiration for a great deal of horror icons including Jason Voorhees of the “Friday the 13th” franchise and Patrick Bateman of “American Psycho” fame.  
Over the years, many actors have played their hand at portraying Bates, but A&E’s premiere of “Bates Motel” has shown that Freddie Highmore is a young actor who has done his research.

 To many, Alfred Hitchcock is one of (if not the) greatest film directors of all time. “Psycho” is considered a masterpiece, and to attempt and recapture the glory of Norman and his mommy dearest is a nearly suicidal attempt for the entertainment industry. 
Unlike “Psycho,” where audiences are given a glimpse of the life of a middle-aged Norman, “Bates Motel” is a look at the psychological abuse Norman endured at the hands of his mother, Norma.  

“Bates Motel” follows Norman’s life during the teenage years.  Following the sudden death of Norman’s father, Norma purchases a motel on the idyllic coastal town of White Pine Bay in an attempt to start over.  The mother-son duo quickly discovers that the small town is not what it appears to be and the townies have secrets of their own. The Bates struggle to overcome the dastardly community and attempt to protect their secrets by any means.  

Strangely enough, this prequel to the “Psycho” legacy is set in modern times in contrast to the 1950s style it should be set in if it were to properly follow the storyline of the Bates family. While it may be argued that placing the story in modern times was a quick way for the show to save a few bucks in the process of development, “Bates Motel” feels less like “Psycho” and instead the love child of Hitchcock fan fiction and rejected episodes of “Twin Peaks.”  

This show successfully captures the incestual eroticism of Bates and his mother without ever fully giving away the later secret to Norman’s identity.

The script is incredibly weak, but Highmore brings to life many of Normans quirks personified previously by Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” There are moments that feel forced, but in contrast to Highmore’s track record of playing adorable little kids in films like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” he has proven that he is far more than just a cute child actor.  

Academy award nominee Vera Farmiga plays the overbearing Norma, with very strange results.  Most audiences are familiar with Mama Bates as a corpse, so to see her as a living entity is something relatively new. Farmiga is an incredibly talented actress, but is given relatively weak dialogue.

Arguably, the weakest aspect of the show is the secondary characters. All of the girls that Norman interacts with at school are devoid of any sort of interesting qualities and instead play completely to the “hot-girl” archetype we’ve seen an overabundance of in all media forms over the years.  It’s almost as if the writers concentrated so much on creating a solid character in Norma that they completely forgot about any other character without a Y chromosome.  

Ultimately, this isn’t to say that “Bates Motel” seems dead in the water. There have only been a few episodes released to the public.  The show will need a few more episodes before a proper opinion can be made, but Highmore’s portrayal of Norman Bates is worth every minute.

2 comment(s):

Gene Phillips said...

I missed the pilot, but the second episode wasn't quite the sinkhole of depravity that some of the media-mags have been claiming. I rather like the girl they've introduced with cystic fibrosis, and Norma's rather measured reaction to her.

Brian said...

Just watched episode 3 online. I am really liking the show so far, and I really don't care for any of these modern remakes or re-imaginings. However, the folks behind this show seem to be making something worthwhile.

Plus its hilarious to see the guy from Suddenly Susan make an appearance as the Sheriff. I wonder if he'll die in a spectacular fashion.

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