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Robin Williams gives what may well be the performance of his career in `One
Hour Photo,' a creepy psychological thriller written and directed with cool
precision by Mark Romanek. Given its premise, the film could easily have
degenerated into a sordid, exploitative tale of obsession and madness.
Instead, Romanek has chosen to take a more subtle approach, fashioning a
film that downplays the potential violence of its material while, at the
same time, recognizing the humanity of its central figure.
Romanek understands that the greatest threats to our safety and lives often come from the gray, nondescript people who surround us unnoticed, the `nobodies' whose benign faces and vacuous smiles reveal no trace of the insanity, evil and potential for doing us harm that may be lurking right there under the surface. And nobody is `grayer' than Si Parrish, an innocuous, socially undeveloped milquetoast who spends his days working as a photo developer in one of those sterile five-and-dime drug stores (just like the one in `The Good Girl') - and his nights sitting all alone in his drab apartment brooding over a massive family-photo shrine he has erected to the Yorkins, a seemingly happy family of three whose pictures Si has been developing, copying and obsessing over for more than seven years now. The film centers around Si's growing fixation with this one family and his delusional belief that he too could somehow become an integral part of their family unit. Then comes the day when Si realizes that he is no longer content to be a mere vicarious member of this adopted family and, thus, begins his plan to gradually insinuate himself more and more directly into their lives.
As both writer and director, Romanek manages to keep us in a state of vague uneasiness throughout. We are always anticipating some potentially dreadful event, yet Romanek doesn't go for the easy thrill or the obvious plot turn. Thanks to Williams' subtle, incisive performance, we come to understand something of what makes this strange character tick. We begin to sense the deep-seated loneliness and social awkwardness that have come to play such an important part in defining both his behavior and his character. Si is scary, but he is also pathetic. He may have slipped over the edge into madness, but it is a pathology rooted in overwhelming loneliness and the inability to `fit in' to the societal `norm' of marriage and family. Even when his character is at his most threatening and irrational, Williams somehow makes us care about him.
Romanek hits upon a few ancillary themes as well. He acknowledges how photos create the appearance of a life without necessarily reflecting the reality of that life. Most people, Si confesses, record only the `special, happy' moments of their lives birthdays, weddings, holidays etc. and leave out the mundane or painful ones. Moreover, Si tells us that people use pictures as a way of defeating aging and time, of saying to the world of the future that `I', this seemingly insignificant person, was really here, being happy and enjoying life. To match this theme, Romanek's visual style often feels like the director's own personal homage to The Photograph, as the camera scans caressingly across a sea of snapshots and Si's voiceover narration complements that feeling.
`One Hour Photo' is not a film for those who like their chills heavily laced with bloodshed, murder and mayhem. It is, rather, for those who can appreciate a quietly unsettling, yet strangely compassionate glimpse into the dark recesses of the troubled mind.
Robin Williams once again proves how good comedians can be at serious
drama roles. Williams is especially good at playing creepy characters,
as he has done several times in the last decade.
Here, he plays "Sy, the photo guy," a lonely employee in the photo department of a suburban Target/Walt-Mart//K-Mart-whatever who lives vicariously through a nice family, whose family pictures he has developed and printed for years. So, when Sy discovers the husband of that family is cheating, he takes it personally....and gets involved.
This was a fascinating portrait of a deranged man and a wonderfully photographed movie. The colors in here are astounding at times and the camera-work innovative with some neat angles. The suspense of the story builds and builds one gets that old film-noir feeling of impending doom.
This has a different ending, though, than most old film noirs, not exactly what the viewer might think will happen.
This is a film that, as far I know, never got much publicity, but it's a gem. Williams is outstanding in his role and the hour-and-a-half you invest in this movie flies by.
One Hour Photo is a film of supreme caliber. The film is powered by the haunting, chilling, silencing, and above all-genius performance by Robin Williams. But the rather extraordinary thing is that it is not Robin Williams on the screen, it's Sy Parish (the character's name). Robin Williams fades away from our senses and slips into the ever so sweet and innocent yet psychotic role of a supermarket's photo developer. The films script is only accented by Williams, at times, restrained performance. Williams ignites on the screen and burns till the last frame, and you are unable to take your eyes off him. As I mentioned the film is subliminily written as well as directed. Though being Romanek's first, I certainly don't think this is a bad start. Romanek's direction adds to the on-going tension throughout the film. More affecting is Williams' delightful calmness. Trying to hold himself in becomes more troublesome for both Williams and his character as the story develops. Yet through the calm eyes of an innocent blaze the fires of hatred and intensity, which could very well sum up Williams' performance. The film does have some disturbing images as well. Yet they are not really strong enough for you to get up from your seat and leave yet rather the opposite. Williams' contribution as well as guidance towards the actions and scenes of peril compell as well as amaze you towards both the performance and film itself. Williams' shocking contribution to the screen is enough to make you cry, scream, and yell in your seat. Because the origins of the character are bittersweet just like own known Williams, leads to a crazed and psychotic breakdown. It's as if watching our own funny and beloved Robin fail us. Though the truth could not be any further, Williams but succeeds in the art of acting, creating an achievement in the field. Creating a landmark. Writing his/its own chapter. I guarantee that this film will be required study material in acting classes for now on. In conclusion: definitely one of the best of 2002.
Yes, Robin Williams does steal the show. He's an underrated actor, who, given a good script can deliver a mind boggling performance. That's exactly what One hour photo is, a good script with brilliant performances. The whole cast does an excellent job of showing how the events of one deranged man can impact the lives of many. Let's get one thing straight, though, this not a mainstream movie. It is very much an independant film. If you don't like movies with little action or a low budget don't see this movie. This film is good because of its' strong performances and decent script. I must say, though, without Williams as the lead, this movie would not have been as good as it was.
Seymour is a lonely nondescript man who lives by himself and works in the
photo developing lab in a large mall. The only bit of cheer in his day is
to develop very good photos in his lab, and he takes great pride in his
work. His favourite customers are the Yorkin's, who have a son and regularly
develop pictures. Seymour's like for this family goes beyond `like' and he
feels part of their family and has all their pictures on his wall. However
when both his job and the unity of his family are threatened he
I saw this film in a free preview screening before it came out so I had no reviews to cloud me first. Happily most of them appear to feel the same as I did. In terms of plot this set up will be no surprise to anyone we've all seen Single White Female and Pacific Heights etc, we know what happens that leads to the old bunny boiling etc.
However One Hour Photo is different enough to justify watching. My wife complained that it was too slow and boring but I felt this approach helped it stand out. Instead of being a thriller it was more of a cold slow boiler than was more chilling than thrilling. The plot is well laid out even the money shot of all the pictures on the wall is played out while we're distracted by a joke from the Simpsons on TV. The director's cold approach to story telling works very well and highlights Seymour's grey existence and cold life. Only occasionally does he go astray the fantasy sequences don't always work for instance but for almost the whole film he does very well.
Towards the end Seymour's behaviour goes erratic as we expect and I was worried that the film had eventually given way to cliché. Happily this is not the case. Yes, Seymour's change is a bit of a leap at first but the film cleverly pulls it back at the end. This makes it above the rest of this genre by a good head and shoulders. Clever touches abound in the film but don't always work. For example the director shows us that it is all about seeing by covering Seymour's eyes with objects in some shots to show he has lost his ability to watch, while the name Yorkin is a slight play on `Your Kin' or your family. These are clever but don't add very much the eye theme felt a bit too clever and intrusive.
Williams is excellent. Having paid to see him mush around in Patch Adams I was worried here that eventually his emotions would run away with him. However Williams (and here's something you'd won't hear much) keeps it all in check and underplays wonderfully. His Seymour is likeable, sad, pathetic and chilling all at once. It's hard not to feel for him and he is better for being low-key. I truly felt Williams had turned himself into a `little' man one of those people who you barely notice on the streets as they make no lasting image. Vartan (Alias) is good as Will and Nielsen is also good as Nina. They are also given firm support in the shape of Gary Cole and La Salle. However his is Williams show and, by underplaying, he steals it easily.
Overall this has it's flaws but it is head and shoulders above the rest of this stalker genre. Directed with a clinic eye rather than a thrilling eye this is clever and different enough to more than justify checking it out.
A seemingly innocuous man's descent into madness, and its effect on a family, gives One Hour Photo an advantage over most attempts at psychological thrillers. As with most movies, even critical darlings by the master himself, Mr. Hitchcock, there are questionable plot contrivences and scenes where reality has to be suspended, but these annoyances did not interfere with the total enjoyment of the movie. Williams was eerily brilliant as "Sy, The Photo Guy", and was able to travel between chillingly detached and forcefully angry with ease. The brilliant use of stark colors fleshed out the film, and those that garner enjoyment from the sets and cinematography, as well as the dialogue, will be pleased. This is a film for those that enjoy the total movie experience, and those that appreciate an intensity in their psychological thrillers will not be disappointed. After viewing this film, the question now becomes who gets the Oscar, Williams for One Hour Photo, or Pacino for Insomnia ?
This is a truely special film that hasn't got its proper recognition.
People just don't get it...
This movie is about REAL life, REAL people, and REAL problems...
Hollywood has had a bad habbit of sugar coating reality. All movies have happy endings??? The good guy always win??? Everyone is beautiful???
Give me a break. Hollywood has the tendency of making the bad BAD and the good GOOD. I think most people are somewhere in the middle. I believe that everyone has a dark side and a good side. We're always so quick to judge, label, and forget about people.
A little advice to people in general, never forget anyone.
Powerful film, excellent score (soundtrack). I recommend this film to all those mature enough to pay attention.
I loved this movie. Romanek pays attention to the minute details often
overlooked by most directors through the use of natural lighting,
exceptional cinemaphotography that gives you a moment to take in the
and a soundtrack that doesn't force the viewer to keep fiddling with the
volume. At 90 minutes in length, there is no pointless filler doesn't
you and irrelevant side plots to push it to the 2-hour mark. It's a movie
you can sit back and enjoy without feeling distracted by ridiculous
effects, jittery camera work or a disjointed plot. It has a peaceful,
and thoughtful feel to the narration and dialog that is enhanced and
complimented by the soundtrack. You can identify with the characters
because they're not some Hollywood fantasy - but real and identifiable
everyday people who react as you would expect everyday people to
Robin Williams has proven that he's a versatile actor. I've always liked his characters in comedies (i.e., Mork and Mindy, The Birdcage and Death to Smoochy) - however he really shines in more dramatic roles (Moscow on the Hudson and Awakenings). His character Sy in One Hour Photo takes him to the next level, but he's not the center of attraction. This is a good thing. Romanek gives the movie a sense of balance by giving characters depth and dimension. He makes sure that the perfect family that is the focus of Sy's obsession has problems just like everyone else in spite of their picture perfect affluent lifestyle. We see that while Sy succeeds at work with a warm, friendly disposition - his personal life is cold and lonely with his surroundings at home the same impersonal and sterile environment at work. Sy's character fits perfectly.
Another bright spot in One Hour Photo was Dylan Smith, who played the son of the family that Sy is obsessed with. He's a natural actor who has the ability to play natural characters - an average kid who does a splendid job of acting as an average kid. Romanek doesn't insult the viewer by subjecting us to the stereotypical, annoying, mouthy, whiny, know-it-all kid with the bowl haircut that has ruined movie after movie.
If I could change something - I would cast someone other than Gary Cole to play Sy's boss. Maybe it's the MST3K fan inside me saying this, but after seeing Office Space many times, I kept waiting for him to reincarnate the role of Bill Lumbergh in even the most subtle way, mmmm-kay?. Romanek knew how not to cross the fine line that separated Cole's role as the sadistic boss in Office Space from boss in One Hour Photo.
I give this movie a 9.5 out of 10.
On face value, 'One Hour Photo' may seem like an average thriller but
you'll be in for a surprise if you think so. It is a clever little
movie that works both as a psychological thriller and an intriguing
character study. Thankfully it does not have the absurd twists one has
witnessed in the overrated 'Fatal Attraction' or nonsensical ones like
in 'Single White Female' or 'The Hand That Rocks the Cable'. The
storytelling is very coherent and the portrayal of the characters is
This isn't a fast-paced thriller. Writer and director Romanek takes his time to tell the story but that does not make 'One Hour Photo' boring. On the contrary, it allows us to discover the shades of Seymour and allows the viewer to feel sympathy for but also be fear of him. Likewise, we also discover the family Seymour/Sy stalks. At first they appear to be like a happy American family but soon we see, through Seymour's point of view, that reality is something else. Romanek creates a very gloomy cold atmosphere. The viewer does feel Seymour's loneliness from the busy supermarket to his claustrophobic apartment. The film is very well shot as it highlights the gloominess, indifference and closed atmosphere. Romanek also approaches interesting themes about what photographs mean i.e. proof of ones existence (beautifully explained in the film). While people take pictures of happy moments, their reality is something else.
Coming to the performances, what would 'One Hour Photo' be without Robin Williams? The actor is in a completely different form and he does an excellently downplays Sy. Sy is gentle, polite, pathetic and creepy. Williams really brings a humane quality to the character rather than portray him as the clichéd stalker. Nielsen and Vartan are good too. La Salle and Cole give sufficient support. But, in the end, it's a one man show that belongs to Mr. Williams.
There are a few very minor flaws such as a few scenes where reality is suspended but overall this is a cleverly chilling film that deserves to be watched but do not expect lots of murder, bloodshed, or silly twists like boiling a live rabbit.
well it was a pleasant surprise to see williams in this type of role and
succeeding. although he played the very questionable (and dodgy) killer in
insomnia, his role in one hour photo was very near perfect in this minor gem
of a film. granted williams has been actively pursuing these alternative
roles of late and yes it could be construed as being a cynical move on his
behalf, however this does not detract from the fact that his role in photo
was scarily on the mark.
the directors (romanek) flair for colour synchronicity and immaculate art direction does not stray far from his beginnings as a music video director, however it is this attention to detail and precision that accentuates williams when he chooses to lose the plot. a memorable scene in the film of william's characters eyes squirting blood is in stark contrast to the ordered white formica and polished chrome surfaces that intimate to the spectator a feeling of staring intently at snapshots of a desperate man's life.
if this film was to have any criticism is in the roles of the supporting actors. they are hardly fleshed out and as a spectator i felt that at times i was watching the robin william's rebirth show, however this is a minor point. if i were to mark this out of 10 i would give it a strong 8.
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