ONE HOUR PHOTO is a wonderfully creepy tale about "Sy the Photo Guy," played in
another of his Oscar worthy performances by Robin Williams. With thinning,
closely-cropped blonde hair and wire-frame glasses that sit awkwardly on his
nose, Williams looks like his own blue-collar father. Writer/director Mark
Romanek takes a tale that Hitchcock would have loved and gives it a methodical
M. Night Shyamalan (THE SIXTH SENSE) pacing. Although the supporting cast is
quite acceptable, it is the pairing of Williams's chilling, understated acting
and Romanek's dead-on direction that makes the film something special. Rather
than reviving interest in one hour photo labs, the movie may hasten the switch
to digital after moviegoers find out the dark downside to having a stranger
processing their intimate family portraits.
The third person essential to crafting ONE HOUR PHOTO is cinematographer Jeff
Cronenweth, who produces a film with a decidedly bluish shift. Set in a large
Wal-Mart type discount store, the people in the film appear to have suffered
bluish skins burns from excessive exposure to the store's ever-present
Seymour 'Sy' Parrish (Williams), an outwardly serene guy, has been processing
photos for two decades. He views the store's customers as "his" customers, and
he knows them all well, perhaps too well for their own good. He has been inside
their houses through their photographs and witnessed all of their key family
events. Of all of "his" families, he has only adopted one, the Yorkins --
mother Nina (Connie Nielsen), father Will (Michael Vartan) and son Jake (Dylan
Smith). Sy has used the Yorkin's photographs to wallpaper his living room. The
Yorkins order doubles, but he secretly makes triples since he views himself as
Jake's Uncle Sy.
The movie's dialog is both a strength and a weakness. Sy is an insightful photo
philosopher: "No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget."
and "'Snapshot' was originally a hunting term." In one of the more preposterous
pieces of conversation, Nina, in a heated argument, tells Will that he is "an
emotionally neglectful husband." Who in the world would say that mouthful in a
fight with their spouse?
One thing that we've learned after all of these years of watching movies is that
quiet guys can be dangerous to your health. So it is with Sy, although how and
in what way is quite a surprise.
ONE HOUR PHOTO runs 1:35. It is rated R for "sexual content and language" and
would be acceptable for most teenagers.
My son Jeffrey, age 13, gave it **, saying that he thought Williams's acting was
exceptional but that the rest of the cast was weak. He said that it was as if
the chemicals in the developing fluid had gotten to Sy and affected his brain.
He mentioned several scenes that he thought were useless and said that he found
the story too disturbing.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes