The movie has ended, the drama is over, and the credits have started to roll. One Hour Photo, a burgeoning effort by director and writer Mark Romanek, has fulfilled his duty to his audience by presenting a disturbing piece of everyday life as portrayed by platitudinous characters that many of us know on a daily basis. He has created a confection of suburbia, its attitudes and the loneliness of some of its inhabitants in a little over 90 minutes of airtime.
Seymour (Sy) Parrish (Robin Williams) has worked for Sav-Mart for the past 11 years developing photos and living his life through the courtesies of those captured moments in time. He has fixated on one family in particular, the Yorkins, as they seem to have everything that Sy does not - a luxurious home, the holidays, the car, the parties, the clothes and best of all, what appears for all intents and purposes, an extant, nuclear family. What he does not know, at least initially, is that the grass is not always greener on the other side, and he might just get what he wishes for, warts and all.
Romanek has created Parrish, a man without a past, present or future. Parrish lives his life in the sterile, yet fertile environment of his own mind. His days are centred around his job at the Sav-Mart and it seems to be his only contact with others. His apartment is simple and uncluttered but it betrays a head shaking secret as he follows the moves of a typical suburban family throughout the years.
Robin Williams as Parrish is a study in clipped mannerisms. It is an unsettling performance, and there were instances where the most uncomfortable of presumptions were apparent if only for a split second in time. It was a case of not quite knowing where or what his character might be capable of, especially in the interactions with young Jake Yorkin (Dylan Smith). His desperation in wanting to "belong" or be a part of the family Yorkin is in some ways touching, and yet, there is an eerie factor being maintained throughout that didn't totally allow one to put a finger on just what is wrong or where his deceptions might lead. As he bears his soul to young Jake about his own childhood, one is impressed but at the same time slightly repulsed that he has chosen a child to make these revelations to. Williams has portrayed Sy as the quietest of church mice, until moved to action by a grievous error in judgment as performed by Will Yorkin (Michael Vartan), that will change the tone of the film from that point on.
Williams is able to make the transition from non-entity to full fleged man on the edge of a nervous breakdown in a matter of seconds. His life is turned upside down at one point and he feels that someone has to pay for all that has befallen him.
The Yorkin family as represented by Michael Vartan, Connie Nielsen (Nina) and Dylan Smith are the epitome of class distinction, but seem quite barren in terms of producing any feeling for them in this film. Shots of the family looked like pictures from a magazine layout and Nielson's one great show of emotion (anger) was when she was put on hold by a male secretary as she attempted to find her husband. Sy was almost as disgusted as this reviewer as he watched the entire family from his car as they ate a trouble free dinner, even though Nina has been apprised of her husband's adultery earlier that day. She went on as though nothing had happened. Try as this family might, the reviewer was unimpressed with anything that happened to them. With a different cast of family members, it might have been otherwise.
Eric La Salle. What was the purpose in having him in this movie? His sole expression of befuddlement was worn throughout the course of his entire performance and could have been played with more forcefulness by any number of struggling actors made lean and hungry by previous lack of work.
The use of the bright colours to highlight various scenes is catchy as one interprets it to be representative of the bright flashes of light that are commonplace when one takes a photograph. The camerawork by Jeff Cronenweth is apt and in some instances, imaginative.
While this film provided some thrills and a storyline that could have cut from today's headlines, with the exception of Williams marvelous performance, there isn't much to recommend it. Romanek has tried to produce a worthy successor to the huge shoes of an Alfred Hitchcock film (Frenzy come to mind), and while he attains some success, it is a project that in different hands, might have betrayed more. The long and the short of all this is that Williams acting IS worth the price of admission, but he is only part of the equation. To bring us full circle the audience needed to get the feel of "big screen" rather than a movie of the week production. Romanek is on the right track, but practice, practice and more practice is necessary before you play Carnegie Hall.
American director who has worked predominantly in music videos, turning in distinctive promos for Madonna, Nine Inch Nails, David Bowie and, most recently, Johnny Cash's haunting "Hurt". On the big screen he has made three films, 1985's quirky Static and 2002's Robin Williams-starrer One Hour Photo. Icy and tragic sci-fi Never Let Me Go followed in 2010 to some acclaim.