Sept. 26, 2002 – At first glance, Robin Williams in "One Hour Photo" appears as a mild-mannered film-processing clerk, which, of course, he is anything but.
Behind the persona of Seymour Parrish, the friendly photo guy in a huge suburban SavMart, lurks the makings of a true monster, and a very lonely one.
Williams nurses his character along gently, giving us little nudges that all may not be quite right inside. Sy is a creature of habit, dining alone at a dismal café each evening and returning to his equally dismal apartment. Dismal and plain — that is, except for one wall covered in photographs.
Sy knows all about his customers: the lady who just takes pictures of her cats, the amateur porn artist — but especially the all-American family, the Yorkins, in whom he takes a more than proprietary interest. In fact, it is the Yorkin family's pictures that are all over his wall.
He begins to fancy himself spending holidays with them; he is dear old "Uncle Sy," and they adore him. As his secret fantasy unfolds, Sy begins to lose touch with reality. The lines begin to blur, and he begins, in fact, to insinuate himself into the lives of Nina Yorkin (Connie Nielsen), her husband, Will (Michael Vartan), and their young son, Jakob (Dylan Smith).
It's hard to dislike Williams, and it can take a while to accept him as a person who wasn't made with the right parts inside, such as compassion.
Several film critics comment on director Mark Romanek's use of cinematography. The first part of the picture is in muted tones; the visuals become more vibrant as Williams' character becomes more menacing. "Much of the film's atmosphere forms through the cinematography," Roger Ebert says.
Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ponders the act of people taking pictures of one another. Is it, she wonders, because someone then can say, "I was here once, I was somebody"? She calls Romanek's work "a sobering meditation on why we take pictures."
Ebert says the movie "has been compared to 'American Beauty,' another film where resentment, lankiness and lust fester beneath the surface of suburban affluence." However, there's a difference between the two, he says. He describes Kevin Spacey's character in "American Beauty" as being haunted by needs that may be "frowned upon and even illegal," but are nonetheless "within the range of emotions we understand." In contrast, he says, Sy Parrish is "outside that range."
The 1 hour and 38 minute movie is rated R for sexual content and language.
It is playing at Diamond Cinemas.
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