Film: One Hour Photo

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Film:

One Hour Photo

Director: Mark Romanek
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Genres:
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

One Hour Photo may be more civilized than Taxi Driver, but it’s just as effectively creepy. Like Martin Scorsese’s classic, this riveting character study is so compassionately detailed that we sympathize with poor Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) even as he grows increasingly unhinged. Sy is a meticulously dedicated one-hour-photo technician, but the pictures he processes—particularly those belonging to the successful, seemingly happy family of Nina and Will Yorkin (Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan)—turn into the unhealthiest kind of obsession. The…

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Amazon.com

One Hour Photo may be more civilized than Taxi Driver, but it’s just as effectively creepy. Like Martin Scorsese’s classic, this riveting character study is so compassionately detailed that we sympathize with poor Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) even as he grows increasingly unhinged. Sy is a meticulously dedicated one-hour-photo technician, but the pictures he processes—particularly those belonging to the successful, seemingly happy family of Nina and Will Yorkin (Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan)—turn into the unhealthiest kind of obsession. The Yorkins’ snapshots portray a joyful life that the lonely and traumatized Sy could never hope to achieve, and he sinks deeper and deeper into the solace they bring…until evidence of infidelity turns him into a seething crucible of righteous indignation. Propelled by Williams’s flawless escape from the feel-good schmaltz of earlier roles, One Hour Photo is a simmering tour de force, tempered by writer-director Mark Romanek for maximum psychological impact. —Jeff Shannon

One Hour Photo marks Robin Williams’ third film running as the bad guy, following on from Insomnia and the straight-to-video (in the UK) Death to Smoochy. It’s also his most chilling role to date. Playing “photo guy” Sy Parrish, obsessed by the seemingly perfect family who are his most regular customers, he paints a desperate image of a lonely, fanatical man whose only comfort lies in imagining himself a part of the lives of the wealthy, happy Yorkins family (headed by Connie Nielsen). Devastated by being fired from his job at the processing lab, and making a shocking discovery on his exit, he descends into psychosis.

Director and screenwriter Mark Romanek, previously best known for his Nine Inch Nails and Madonna music videos, has made a stylish, distinctive entry into the world of mainstream movies; the film combines an ever-intensifying sense of menace with some unconventional shocks that never descend into clichés. Refreshingly, the film is presented from Parrish’s point of view rather than the Yorkins’, and it’s a real (if disquieting) treat to see Williams ditch his usual bumbling buffoon character and get another meaty role to sink his teeth into. Eschewing the formulas and devices of the standard thriller with bleak effectiveness, One Hour Photo is a far more intelligent proposition than most of its peers—though it may be a disappointment to those expecting visceral thrills. —Rikki Price

Barnes and Noble

Robin Williams, essaying the latest in a series of dark characterizations, delivers his most bone-chilling performance to date in this superior thriller, a minor masterpiece of eerie mood and rising suspense. Williams portrays a lonely, obsessive one-hour photo clerk who has spent years living vicariously through an attractive suburban family whose pictures adorn his living-room wall. To him, the mother (Connie Neilson), father (Michael Vartan), and young son (newcomer Dylan Walsh), whose lives he monitors through the photos he processes for them, has always represented familial perfection. When sordid real-life events blur the idyllic images he has fixed in his mind, this unassuming but unbalanced man finally snaps. Writer-director Mark Romanek, previously known for his music videos, displays a strong Stanley Kubrick influence, not only in the emotional restraint and pacing of his sequences but also in the cinematography and production design. One Hour Photo has a dreamlike quality, particularly in those scenes taking place in the department store where Williams’s character works. But Romanek’s virtuoso visuals would have gone for naught had his star not invested his role with such creepy conviction: Williams pulls off a nearly impossible trick by making his dangerously psychotic photo clerk a reasonably sympathetic character. That, ultimately, is why the film succeeds—and it’s why you’ll be drawn back to the movie again and again. Romanek and Williams provide a feature-length commentary for the DVD, which also sports several “making-of” featurettes. Ed Hulse

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