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View Date: Sept 13th, 2002

Rating: ($$$ out of $$$$$)


Robin Williams Seymour Parrish
Connie Nielsen Nina Yorkin
Michael Vartan Will Yorkin
Dylan Smith  Jakob Yorkin
Eriq La Salle Det. James Van Der Zee
Erin Daniels Maya Burson
Paul H. Kim Yoshi Araki
Lee Garlington Waitress
Gary Cole Bill Owens

Written and Directed by:
Mark Romanek 

Related Viewings:
Fear (1996)
Crush, The (1993)
When a Stranger Calls (1979)
Rear Window (1954)

Official Sites:
One Hour Photo

Also see my reviews at:


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One Hour Photo

One Hour Photo uses Robin Williams as a tour guide through an introspective, chilling view on the philosophy of a photograph.  His tools on this journey include loneliness, isolation, envy, and a generally creepy sensation like someone blowing gently on the back of your neck.  Williams turns in a dually sympathetic and frightening performance in a film that succeeds or fails based on his performance.  When it works, it will have you seriously considering your own personal dark room, but when it occasionally doesn’t, it resorts to some typical movie tricks instead of flying over the edge that it creeps towards and teasingly crosses.  Either way, you will never look at a photograph, or the people who develop them, the same way again.

Williams, decked out in a cropped blond hairdo, is Seymour “Sy” Parrish, a photo-processing technician at a local Wal-Mart style store.  He is genial, friendly, sociable and seems to know just a bit too much about one of his customers.  The Yorkins, on initial appearance, would seem to be the happy American family.  He is the owner of a design company, and she is the loving housewife and mother of their son Jake.  An underlying message in the film is that appearances aren’t always as they seem.  And that is indeed the case with both Sy and the Yorkins.  The remainder of the film deals with Sy’s ever growing attachment and obsession with his perception of perfection, while their perfection seems to crumble outside the frames of the deceptive photographs.  As it is with similar films that deal with the natural horrors that exist around us (Panic Room etc) One Hour Photo taps into the vein of our psyche and slowly injects the paranoia inside us until it fills without us realizing, and grips us beyond our control.  Even though the final act plays out a bit too expectedly, the overwhelming feeling of fear, discomfort, insecurity and even pity, pervade into our subconscious.  There is a chilling tone throughout One-Hour Photo that is obviously told by a patient, but impassioned teller.  Had he simply let things play out naturally, instead of slightly tainting things with one little trick, this could have been a natural horror movie to rival any of the classics.  Instead, he has still given us a vehicle to ride through our most paranoid fears, with Williams as the capable driver.

Ever since he broke onto the screen 23 years ago, Robin Williams has had a devilish potential inside him.  His characters, who range from comical and manic (Mrs. Doubtfire, The Birdcage) to subtle and charming (Patch Adams, Bicentennial Man) to dramatic and powerful (Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting) have taken a darker turn this year, and we are all the better for it.  The smirk, the rapid fire delivery, the laugh, all held hope for something maniacal, similar to Jim Carrey who took his to a new level as the Riddler (a role Williams was up for coincidentally) However Romanek succeeds where Death to Smoochy failed because not only is the humor gone, but seemingly all of Williams other emotions have been contained and compacted into a package that seems ready to explode at any time.  The meticulous nature of his habits, the starkness of his house, offset by a back wall that will downright send shivers down your spine, all help Williams raise this film above the norm and should generate some consideration for Williams come Oscar time.

Ultimately, One-Hour Photo is a disturbing, yet surprisingly ordinary look inside the lonely, desperate world of obsession and perception.  Photographs are moments in time, frozen for remembrance for whatever reason, be it celebratory, revelatory or just to recall and hold onto an emotion and feeling.  Tapping into the naturally occuring fears of society is something Hollywood rarely does.  Hitchcock was a master of it and no one has consistently come close since then.  With this film, Romanek shows the potential and generates a genuinely scary slice of life with his ability to show a slice of reality, namely the capturing of moments with photographs, and .  The film explores the philosophy of this by exposing the one-dimensional aspect of them, along with the origin of the word snapshot (from hunters who accidentally succeeded by shooting quickly) and combining these into a character exploration that is unnerving, creepy and downright spooky in how close it hits home.  Williams dark, edgy performance is award worthy, unfortunately this does not carry over into some parts of the film which lapse and drift into areas that weren’t necessary in order to make the point.  Still, Romanek has succeeded in tapping into the potential of Williams to creep us out, while still making us feel sorry for him and in the end, leaving with emotions and appearances that aren’t as clearly focused as we would expect them to be.

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