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One Hour Photo

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: One Hour Photo

Starring: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen
Director: Mark Romanek
Rated: R
RunTime: 98 Minutes
Release Date: August 2002
Genres: Drama, Suspense


*Also starring: Michael Vartan, Gary Cole, Eriq LaSalle, Dylan Smith, Erin Daniels



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Review by Harvey Karten
3½ stars out of 4

For a thriller, "One Hour Photo" is the most human picture of the year...human in the sense that writer-director Mark Romanek, in his dazzling first feature film does not deal with robotic characters like XXX or Spider-Man or Hannibal of even Spy Kids, but with a guy who could be like you and me. If you've ever felt you were working at a job and were not only unappreciated but virtually invisible, you'll look to Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) as your Everyman. In fact what makes Romanek's feature particularly chilling is the believability of his principal performer as a man whose perfectionism, whose obsessiveness, whose desperate attempts to ingratiate himself with people out of his circle are symptoms of his loneliness.

Although Sy Parrish loves his job working for the past eleven years as the chief of his little One Hour Photo booth in a huge, Southern California, Wal-Mart type of downscale department store, he is deeply unhappy, and why not? Every day he looks at the hundreds of prints he meticulously develops, photos taken by people at their happiest or, in some cases, most erotic moments. The kids are beaming, the houses seem to come out of Architectural Digest, the parents are loving: these are family shots and Sy has no family. Living alone, he imagines himself as a relative of a regular customer, the prosperous Nina Yorkin (Connie Nielsen), married to the yuppie-ish Will (Michael Vartan) with a friendly young boy, Jakob (Dylan Smith) in tow. In one stunning, surreal scene with a twist, cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth hones in on Sy, who has apparently let himself into the Yorkins' capacious home, drinking a beer while watching both a football game and Homer Simpson on the projection TV built into the wall. He sees himself as a member of the family, an uncle perhaps, in the warm embrace of an eight-year-old boy who loves him and for whom he picks up games and toys. When on his job one day, he scans some pictures brought it by a sexy customer, Maya (Erin Daniels), and is shocked by what he sees. Determined to "fix" the picture, Sy allows his obsession with his image of the perfect Yorkin family to get the best of him.

While Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek's scary original score is occasionally pumped up beyond our expectations for a film released by Fox's art house, the soundtrack effectively complements the action rather than forcing us in the audience to feel emotions we'd not ordinarily have experienced. Romanek's emphasis on the score may be explained, in fact, by his history as the producer of award-winning music videos for Madonna and Nine Inch Nails. Romanek also makes dramatic use of color, evoking natural browns for the upscale Yorkin family contrasted with washed-out blues for the lonely little flat inhabited by Sy.

Robin Williams breaks new ground as a performer. Though Williams is beloved for some of the best comic performances on record in such works as Paul Mazursky's "Moscow on the Hudson," and Barry Levinson's "Good Morning Vietnam" the protean actor exquisitely combines his schlemiel-like, wistful persona from Peter Kassovitz's "Jakob the Liar" with the killer traits he exhibits in Christopher Nolan's "Insomnia." What emerges is a complex Seymour Parrish, whose excellence on the job provides inadequate compensation for his failure to connect as a human being. With a fine cast to back him up, including Gary Cole as his boss that's the fellow who turned out one of the funniest characterizations of the year in Mike Judge's hilarious "Office Space" "One Hour Photo" is an almost picture- perfect psychological thriller that punctuates the theory that crimes of violence are often committed by the people you'd least suspect. It's always the quiet, ones, no?

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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