One Hour Photo (2002)
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Review Date: September 10, 2002
Director: Mark Romanek
Writer: Mark Romanek
Producers: Pamela Koffler, Christine Vachon, Stan Wlodkowski
Robin Williams as Seymour "Sy" Parrish
Connie Nielsen as Nina Yorkin
Michael Vartan as Will Yorkin
On the outside, Sy is a middle-aged loner who is proud to be working at the photo shop of the SavMart department store. On the inside, Sy is one fucked-up dude who doesn't have much of a life of his own, makes doubles of a certain family's pictures, smears them all over his own apartment walls and sorta, kinda...lives through them. Then one day, Sy's ordered world begins to crumble. Uhhhhm, I suggest you get out of the man's way.
This movie can be seen in many ways, one of which is the study of how one can graduate from a sociopathic nature to that of a full-blown psychopath, another which demonstrates the karmic consequences of a cheating relationship, another which traces a person's actions as an adult back to their own development as a child and last but certainly not least, the portrait of a very lonely, lonely man! In the great tradition of characters like Travis Bickle and Norman Bates, Sy Parrish, played brilliantly by an unrecognizable Robin Williams, is the ultimate loser caught up in a seemingly wonderful world of perfection all around him. Of course, the truth is that no one is truly perfect or entirely happy, but Sy doesn't see it that way, and his entire persona seems to revolve under the illusion of a very ordered and tightly wound world about him. But when that idyllic place begins to fall apart, the man goes deeper inside himself, loses his grip and chooses a cathartic remedy to escape it all. I believe that Sy needed to "do unto others as had been done unto him" in the end and the scene with him sorting out his pictures felt almost like a man looking through his own family photos (remember how at some point in the film, Sy says that one theory believes that human beings take pictures solely to prove that they existed in the world...in the case of Sy's pics, the exclusion of a certain someone from those pics says a whole damn lot).

This is a very sad and disturbing story, and deserving of at least one end of the year nomination for its lead portrayal by Williams, who doesn't only enrapture this man's truly creepy exterior and deadened gaze, but his peculiar mannerisms, his way of walking, his way of smiling, his way of being a very disturbed and ultimately, dangerous human being. If there was one word which would effectively describe this film's mood to anyone, it would have to be: uncomfortable. Despite it not featuring any action or "thrills" per se, I kept fidgeting in my seat a lot, especially when Williams interacted with others in the movie. The scene between he and the little kid was especially uneasy, as well as the food-court sequence with Nielsen. Major kudos go out to Williams for convincing the audience to completely forget about his over-the-top nature in real-life, as well as his past tradition of playing loveable goofs, and establishing one of the more credible nuts to hit the screen in some time. But I won't give him all the credit since the writer/director Mark Romanek also had much to do with bringing all of this out of Williams. The directing in the picture is particularly deft, especially any of the scenes featuring Williams alone, staring at the walls or going about his every day "strange" behavior. The score, as morbidly contagious as they come, also elevated the tense nature of the film, and by the time the so-called "chase" scene occurs during the film's final act, I was ready to shit a full brick into my underwear. The film also deals with various themes including privacy, alienation, child abuse, infidelity, the vicarious existence of one through others, as well as the masks which many of us carry around from day to day, with lots to discuss afterwards (it also reminded me of Lynch's whole BLUE VELVET theory of "white picket fences" not always representing what they do, etc...)

I don't think that this movie is going to win everyone over (at the end of the day, it's more of a character study than anything and it's pretty darn dark-me likey dark flicks), especially since it does move at a slow pace and doesn't necessarily have much "going on" in the typical cinematic sense, but if you look below the surface, if you ponder the silent stares...there's a lot happening and Williams' unique portrayal alone deserves a looksie. I loved almost everything about this movie, including its inside nods to the great Stanley Kubrick, the anti-septic nature of the SavMart in which Sy conducted his daily rituals, the one unexpected "bloody" scene which surprised the heck out of me and the fact that things don't necessarily conclude on a "Oh, I get it!" note (and check out all of the cute play on names that are featured for the characters). In fact, much like many other favorite movies of mine, I believe that this is one of those puppies that will provide for an even greater appreciation the next few times around the reel. As for the rest of the characters not being as developed as the narrator, well...as with most movies that I adore, this might be "reaching" a little, but my theory on that is that since we are in fact seeing most everything through the eyes of Sy the Photo Guy (who is as delusional as they come), doesn't it make complete sense for the rest of the characters not to be as developed, since he really doesn't know much about them anyway? (other than what he sees in the pics) I don't know...something to think about, I guess. One thing is for certain and that is that Mr. Sy Parrish is one man who I will not soon forget. One Hour Photo? No rush dude...take all week if you like...in fact, fuck it, keep the pics...just stay away from my knives!! Yipes!
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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