One Hour Photo (2002)


That’s why when it comes to cameras, I stay digital bitches.

Robin Williams stars as Sy Parrish, a mentally unbalanced photo development clerk who becomes obsessed with a picture-perfect suburban family. Sy has watched Nina (Connie Nielsen) and Will Yorkin (Michael Vartan) celebrate happy occasions through their snapshots for years. But when the flawless façade he’s created for himself starts to crumble, he takes matters into his own hands.

This is one of those films that really just makes you depressed as soon as you watch it. So don’t let the casting of Mrs. Doubtfire fool you.

What I liked about this film was the first half where we focus on this lonely guy, Sy Parrish, and we are sort of intrigued by him in many strange ways. This dude is sort of alienated from the world around him which kind of actually makes us wish he was part of this family, but then there are other times where we are just glad he’s on a different continent.

Writer and director Mark Romanek is also very good when it comes to creating a great style for all of this alienation and loneliness that Sy goes through. The constant use of a white background kind of made me feel like I was in a dream or a nightmare, which added so much more of a creepy level to this film.

However as a writer, Romanek isn’t fully there yet. The film started off so strong but the second half then turns into this thriller that’s totally preposterous and dumb that it made no sense really as to where it went and actually ended up. I never actually believed Sy’s motivations behind the obsession and the anger that is caused by this family. It came across to me as a bit shallow and the reasons why people take pictures left-and-right isn’t something that is left in your head thinking about before you go to bed. It’s just a damn picture!

Another problem with this film was the score here that actually takes over the film a lot more than it should have. Soundtracks should support everything that happens on-screen, it shouldn’t tell us every little thing we should be feeling and try to add more drama to it. Soundtracks should also be subtle to actually let us sink in the silence that actually happens in real-life sometimes, and not play over a whole scene.

But the dumbest part of the score/soundtrack was the stupid “Danger!” bass sound that comes in almost every time something dramatic happens in this film giving us no actual radical thinking about what feeling we should feel. This is one of the rare films that actually would have been a lot better given it almost had no soundtrack, just silence for every scene but then again, Hollywood has to take over everything.

Robin Williams is the real saving grace here in this film as that lonely, kind of creepy, but very interesting character as Sy Parrish. Williams has done the dramatic roles before with a little hint of his comedic charms in there, but as Parrish he totally gets rid of all of the smiles and just totally takes over every scene he has as this creepy loner. Sy has a depressing life but Williams adds that extra level of likability that we almost actually stand behind and make us feel for him as frightening as he may be. I said this in the Good Will Hunting review and I’ll say it again: go back to drama Robin Williams!!

Consensus: It starts of promising with some great detail from director Mark Romanek, but it soon turns into a dumb thriller that’s aided by a score that is more interested in telling you how you should feel about what’s going on rather than just letting you feel your own emotions. However, Robin Williams is the real one to watch here and steals every scene he has with his creepy look.

5.5/10=Rental!!

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12 comments

  1. it’s been awhile since I saw it,but it’s common for people with a psychosis (like this guy MUST have) to go ballistic over something as lame as a picture. Otherwise I totally agree.

  2. Definitely NOT the kind of movie to watch late on a Friday night after you’ve run out of antidepressants and your mother has stopped taking your phone calls. A real downer.

    I’m just sayin’. 😉

  3. I like this film though it is a flawed film. In fact, here’s some trivia that not many people know. The film’s original score was by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who we all know is one of the two guys behind the award-winning score of The Social Network, that was never used because Romanek didn’t really know what to do with it. Yet, Reznor did release these pieces from the NIN online-only EP Still which is a record I only listen to on rainy days.

    • Haha I’m gonna have to listen to that one sooner or later. I think I heard about that before but never really actually went out to search for it. Seems like Trent would have been the perfect choice for this material.

  4. Williams totally creeped me out in this film. And for me there were scenes where the art direction was just perfect for the atmosphere. And narration about why and how people take photos was quite deep.

  5. Robin Williams performance is the best part of this film but I agree with your assessment. I like how you dissect the movie as well. Always enjoy reading your reviews keep up the good work!

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