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One Hour Photo Review

By Shawn McKenzie 08/29/2002

I really don’t know what got into Robin Williams this year, but I am loving it! He has taken on some dark roles this year. I don’t know if he was just in a dark mood, or if he was trying to shake the goopy image he was acquiring from roles in movies like 1998’s Patch Adams and 1999’s Bicentennial Man, but either way, it was a good decision.

The latest role I am talking about is his role in One Hour Photo. One Hour Photo is the story of Sy Parrish (Williams.) He is a lonely man who has worked in the photo-mat of the fictional discount store SavMart for many years. He takes great pride in his work, but he notices that people only seem to take pictures of the good times in their lives, never the bad times. One of those families that seem to be always happy, based on their pictures, is the Yorkin family. The mother, Nina (Connie Nielsen), always brings her photos in to the SavMart to be developed. Her son Jakob (Dylan Smith) usually accompanies her, but the dad, Will (Michael Vartan), never comes in. Their pictures make them look like the perfect happy family. Sy so desperately wants that in his life, so much that he can actually imagine being "Uncle Sy." The movie starts out with Seymour being interrogated in a police station by Detective James Van Der Zee (Eric LaSalle.) He begins to tell his tale of why he became so obsessed with the Yorkins. What follows is a disturbing tale of one lonely man’s obsession to preserve his image of perfection, or at least preserve the image he had seen in the Yorkin photos that he had been developing for years.

Before I get into the brilliance of Robin Williams, I want to give some kudos to a couple of other actors who did a great job in this movie. Michael Vartan, who if you are a fan of ABC’s "Alias," you will know he took a huge risk in messing with his image. As CIA Agent Michael Vaughn on "Alias," he plays a nice guy. He was also a nice guy in the movie Never Been Kissed. In One Hour Photo, he shows that he can play a guy who isn’t so nice, and convincingly too. Another great performance is by Gary Cole, who plays Bill Owens, the manager of the SavMart. At first, his role might remind you of Bill Lumbergh, the supervisor in the cult hit Mike Judge movie Office Space, but soon you will forget that, because Bill Owens becomes a character all his own.

I think the guy who introduced the movie at the screening of One Hour Photo said it best: this movie will make you forget that Robin Williams is a comedian. He is so disturbing in this movie, especially in the second half, when his obsession grows after finding out things about the Yorkins, or specifically something about Will, that doesn’t quite gel with his image of perfection. The combination of the great hair and makeup job done on him with the facial expressions that he makes will scare you. I had been commenting before I saw the movie that even the posters for the movie looked scary.

Robin Williams is this year’s Nicole Kidman: it’s not if he will be nominated for an Oscar, but for which role. I think we can rule out Danny DeVito’s Death to Smoochy, since critics slammed it and it only took in $8.3 million total, with a budget of $55 million (which is a shame because I thought it was a great movie, especially if you hate Barney the Dinosaur.) It is down to his role in Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia (which was a modest hit, making $66.8 million and having a $46 million budget), or One Hour Photo, directed by music video director Mark Romanek (best known for directing weird videos by Madonna and Nine Inch Nails.) What role do I think he will be nominated for? That is a tough call. He was definitely scarier as Sy in One Hour Photo than as Walter Finch in Insomnia, but the characters had different motivations for being creepy, so I think he played them both to perfection. I guess we’ll find out which role gets the nod in January.

Do not miss Robin Williams’ third great role in a row. Do I want him to keep doing dark roles? No, because that would get old after a while too, but I am so glad that he is one of the rare actors that seems to have a perception to what his fans want to see him in, and what they are getting sick of seeing him in. One Hour Photo is the final nail in the coffin of a path that led to a Patchy glop of a career. Now that his future’s so dark, I think it is bright again!

Get the original score soundtrack composed by Reinhold Hell and Johnny Klimek:

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Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

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