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One Hour Photo

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: One Hour Photo

Starring: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen
Director: Mark Romanek
Rated: R
RunTime: 98 Minutes
Release Date: August 2002
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Michael Vartan, Gary Cole, Eriq LaSalle, Dylan Smith, Erin Daniels

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

ONE HOUR PHOTO is a wonderfully creepy tale about "Sy the Photo Guy," played in another of his Oscar worthy performances by Robin Williams. With thinning, closely-cropped blonde hair and wire-frame glasses that sit awkwardly on his nose, Williams looks like his own blue-collar father. Writer/director Mark Romanek takes a tale that Hitchcock would have loved and gives it a methodical M. Night Shyamalan (THE SIXTH SENSE) pacing. Although the supporting cast is quite acceptable, it is the pairing of Williams's chilling, understated acting and Romanek's dead-on direction that makes the film something special. Rather than reviving interest in one hour photo labs, the movie may hasten the switch to digital after moviegoers find out the dark downside to having a stranger processing their intimate family portraits.

The third person essential to crafting ONE HOUR PHOTO is cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, who produces a film with a decidedly bluish shift. Set in a large Wal-Mart type discount store, the people in the film appear to have suffered bluish skins burns from excessive exposure to the store's ever-present florescent lights.

Seymour 'Sy' Parrish (Williams), an outwardly serene guy, has been processing photos for two decades. He views the store's customers as "his" customers, and he knows them all well, perhaps too well for their own good. He has been inside their houses through their photographs and witnessed all of their key family events. Of all of "his" families, he has only adopted one, the Yorkins -- mother Nina (Connie Nielsen), father Will (Michael Vartan) and son Jake (Dylan Smith). Sy has used the Yorkin's photographs to wallpaper his living room. The Yorkins order doubles, but he secretly makes triples since he views himself as Jake's Uncle Sy.

The movie's dialog is both a strength and a weakness. Sy is an insightful photo philosopher: "No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget." and "'Snapshot' was originally a hunting term." In one of the more preposterous pieces of conversation, Nina, in a heated argument, tells Will that he is "an emotionally neglectful husband." Who in the world would say that mouthful in a fight with their spouse?

One thing that we've learned after all of these years of watching movies is that quiet guys can be dangerous to your health. So it is with Sy, although how and in what way is quite a surprise.

ONE HOUR PHOTO runs 1:35. It is rated R for "sexual content and language" and would be acceptable for most teenagers.

My son Jeffrey, age 13, gave it **, saying that he thought Williams's acting was exceptional but that the rest of the cast was weak. He said that it was as if the chemicals in the developing fluid had gotten to Sy and affected his brain. He mentioned several scenes that he thought were useless and said that he found the story too disturbing.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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