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One Hour Photo
2000 - R - 98 Mins.
Director: Mark Romanek
Producer: Christine Vachon, Pam Koffler, Stan Wlodkowski, Stanley J. Wlodkowski, Pamela Koffler
Written By: Mark Romanek
Starring: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Dylan Smith, Andrew A Rolfes
Review by: David Trier
   
Robin Williams confirms what he hinted at in Insomnia. The stocky, hairy, hyperactive Tourret’s syndrome poster child is on hiatus and the screen is once again graced with the emotional honesty and presence that made films like Dead Poet’s Society and The Fisher King so effective.

Square-headed photo guy Sy (Robin Williams) is completely alone. He works all day in the photo shop at Sav Mart, the kind of place one feels alone in even on a busy day. He has only a vivid yet imaginary life with his customers, the Yorkin family. He tries desperately to communicate with Nina (Connie Nielsen), her husband Will (Michael Vartan) and son Jakob (Dylan Smith), in the hopes that he might one day be treated like a relative himself. But when he discovers that Will is unfaithful and doesn’t even deserve the life that Sy covets, some serious stalking may be in order.

This is my kind of flick. Of course, I liked Requiem for a Dream too. One Hour Photo isn’t nearly that disturbing, but is so well directed, it creates emotional discomfort with the most ordinary of things. It captures the horror of being grown and alone and the horror of being in places like Sav Mart (or any of the generic discount compounds that end in “Mart” which I consider earthly rings of hell). It does this with even more profundity than when it plays on our fear of being stalked. Director Mark Romanek clearly has a grasp on combining the moving image with artistic yet unobtrusive sound to create an emotional world. This may come from his music video background and it is a more impressive feature of the film than even the story.

Robin Williams creates Sy as a believable yet unacceptable character. We empathize with his loneliness and his anger, but we consistently fear him from beginning to end. The character is written in such a way that we never tire of him, yet we never trust him. That’s good film.

Of course, the artistic success of a character like Sy is slightly weighed down by the blandness of some of the supporting characters. Connie Nielsen brings a lot of warmth to Nina and Dylan Smith is a cute enough kid, but Michael Vartan is completely impotent as the cheating husband. He is utterly unconvincing in his role and rarely seems to even be paying attention in some of the more emotionally significant scenes. Gary Cole does a good job as Sy's subhuman boss, but it's difficult to see the performance as anything but his character from Office Space in a non-comedic setting. Eriq La Salle and Clark Gregg are charged with the impossible task of bringing depth to two uninteresting detectives.

In the end, One Hour Photo doesn’t seem to go all the way with its potential, reaching a peak but not having enough punch. And the plot’s over-simplicity isn’t completely hidden by the film’s intelligent direction. But although Romanek may give a few too obvious nods to the Kubrick, he puts together an engrossing picture that was well capable of holding my attention.

It also made me reconsider developing the photos I took at camp.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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