"One Hour Photo"
Directed by Mark Romanek.
Written by Mark Romanek.
Starring Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen and Michael Vartan.
Release Year: 2002
Review Date: 8/26/02
Believe the hype—“One Hour Photo” is a
solid, solid film.
Robin Williams delivers his best performance
in a long while as Sy Parrish, an 11-year veteran of the one-hour
photo development lab at SavMart, a Wal-Mart-esque store in a
made-up suburb. When the film opens, he is being interrogated by a
cop (Eriq La Salle) for a crime he has apparently committed, and we
spend the next 90 minutes learning just what that is. The
family—Will (“Alias” star Michael Vartan), Nina (Connie Nielsen),
and 9-year-old son Jake (Dylan Smith)—seems like a pretty normal
family, with an idyllic home, expensive cars, and fancy clothes. It
is these things that Sy envies in the family, which has become such
an obsession for him that he knows where they live, all of the
details of their home’s interior...even the size of the prints that
Nina normally likes for her photos. This obsession leads to trouble
down the line.
Once the film gets going, there aren’t that
many surprises as to what is going to happen, but the plot of the
film isn’t nearly as interesting as the lead character in “One Hour
Photo.” You don’t hear me say this often, but Williams is brilliant
in this film. He has played the whacked-out types before but he
just kept me on edge throughout this film. Tense. When Sy goes to
dinner and comes home to be alone for the night, just watching him
stand in the kitchen to drink a glass of water makes you nervous.
And, as he parades down the bland aisles of the SavMart, he just
consumes you with his loneliness, because you imagine for a moment
every single weird retail store worker you have ever seen—especially
if they are in the 40-to-50-years-old range—and wonder: are they
all this way? What must it be like to go in every day for 20 years
(Sy has been at the SavMart for 11 years, but “in the one hour photo
business” for 20 years) and look at other folks’ happiness? The
voice-overs in “One Hour Photo” are excellent, as Sy talks about the
picture business and the human tendency to only take pictures at
their happiest moments; if you don’t have any happy times, why not
live through the lives of those that do?
Much of the credit here, then, goes to
writer/director Mark Romanek for his work and especially his
script—it really keeps things simple, and that ends up making the
film so interesting. Surprisingly, there are a few big laughs in
“One Hour Photo”, and they help bring the tension down a step for a
few brief moments. Better than that, though, is the cinematography
by Jeff Cronenweth (he also shot “Fight Club” for David Fincher).
The visuals in “One Hour Photo” are almost as good as Williams’
performance. The way the SavMart store is shot is excellent, and
the tidiness of the store as well as the off-white walls that make
up 98% of the store are so clean...I felt like I should ask for the
Rollback prices, it was so damned close to Wal-Mart.
Vartan and Nielsen are very good as well.
While the performance by Gary Cole (the boss from “Office Space”) is
also good, it is so close to his performance in that 1999 comedy
that the characters’ first names are the same...this was a minor
distraction in his few scenes. The score adds to the overall dark
feel of the film and “One Hour Photo” seems to do all of the little
things well—little details of Sy’s apartment, sharp editing, and
consistency with the continuity. And, by only having four
characters really be featured throughout the film, it allows for
some good development in the people with whom we spend so much time.
As we move into September—“the worst movie
month of the year”—this is one of the few highlights for late summer
and early fall. Check this one out ASAP.
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard