One Hour Photo
review by Paula Nechak, 23 August 2002
beauty of Mark Romanek's second film, One Hour Photo, rests
not in its subtle excoriation of the cluelessness of the privileged
"I want" upper middle class, but in its right-on view of
the forgotten, taken-for-granted faces who comprise everyday service
life. Has our inability to "see" those who wait upon us
daily, helping satiate our consumer lust and ensuring we have all we
believe we need in our lives, spawned the sociopathy and envy that
sates the media with news fodder on a day-to-day basis by
culminating, usually, in a tragic encounter?
And so what if, as in the case of One Hour Photo, we
blindly entrust these invisible souls with our private selves -
whether contained in a roll of film, access to a bank account or the
purchase of lingerie and sex toys?
Parrish (Robin Williams) knows. He's a perfectionist at what he
does. For eleven years he's been developing the film for the
families of customers of the SavMart store. They manage slight
greetings and forced smiles to this familar staple in their busy
existences and yet they barely make eye contact while issuing
demands upon his already pressed schedule.
Sy has a secret - for nine years he's been fixated on the impossibly
perfect Yorkins - beautiful mom Nina (Connie Nielsen), handsome dad
Will (Michael Vartan) and precociously cute son Jakob (Dylan Smith).
They've been bringing their film to Sy all that time, and he's seen
this ideal family through the birth of their son, exotic vacations,
birthday parties, Christmas dinner. And he has quietly made a copy
of each of their photographs for his own family album - that which
adorns the wall of the dismal, austere apartment in which he resides
- alone and lonely.
Yorkins never think of Sy as a threat. He's always impeccably polite
and willing to bend to their demands. But lately Sy's fantasies have
been getting the best of him. And when a frissoned crack appears in
the Yorkin's marriage, and Sy is suddenly dealt his own blow,
fantasy escalates and Sy feels compelled to correct the
imperfections in the frames of this family's life that he has had
such a part in preserving.
is a taut, unnervingly quiet thriller. Romanek uses music sparingly
and he's shot his film almost as if glimpsing it through a negative.
There are stark whites, the touches of cyan and blue and red-yellow
that compose a photograph, and in certain moments of stillness he
cranks the volume on a phone ringing, to jarring, creepily effective
dread builds and builds and
the film works well as more than a thriller, too. It really peers at
Sy's pathology - The Yorkins as well - and behind Nielsen's daunting
allure and Vartan's boyish remoteness roosts a listless unhappiness.
But the film belongs to Robin Williams and, for one of the
few times in his career, it allows the comic to transcend his
formidable persona. Romanek collapses Williams' frenzied,
over-inflated facade and creates a scarily sympathetic, prissy,
pissed off and pathetic non-entity who blends into the woodwork
and yet cannot really be a part of it.
given Williams only a couple of eerily prescient comic seconds, and
they are so weighted that they're perfectly relevant and meaningful
within the context of what is happening around the character and
within his own mind. Sy Parrish finds his place in the world only
through The Yorkins' seemingly perfect one. But Sy's presence
exposes more than their film and their marriage; he exposes the
cracks in social bias and class, to a heightened, open ending in
which time and perception cannot reverse itself.
Eriq La Salle
R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
parent or adult