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Smile for the Camera!

Robin Williams in One Hour Photo

Ever notice that no one takes out a camera and starts taking photographs at funerals? Especially the corpse, even though that's the last time anyone's ever going to be able to see him/her. When someone cries, you don't snap a photo of him or her either. In fact, it's faux pas to take pictures during any sad moments.

People only take photos during happy times and all they want is to let the depressing ones go by documentation-free. During the opening scenes of One Hour Photo, an uncomfortable film written and directed by music video guru Mark Romanek, Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) observes that, "No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget."

Which proves true of the family that Sy is stalking. He's been working at the one hour photo of the sterile Sav-Mart (which looks like a government-issued shopping facility heavily influence by the novel 1984) for eleven years and throughout those years he's been chronicling the life of The Yorkins, a way-too photogenic bunch who seem to have jumped off the pages of an Ikea catalog. He's obsessed with them with a capital "O" and fantasizes that he's part of the family; you know, Uncle Sy, that weird bachelor uncle who lives in the city. When Sy discovers a crack in the family's veneer, he snaps.

This is Robin Williams like you've never seen him before. He looks like a creepy aging pervert (and, no, his role as Peter Pan doesn't count). The actor struts his versatility and range in this film. Proving that Williams should by no means be consigned to happy-go-lucky feel good rolls. Sy's depression seeps off the screen and his quiet rage makes you yourself tense and uneasy. You know he going to snap- the question is when and how. Thus, generating One Hour Photo's thriller aspect.

The cinematography is skillful and tight. It seems as if each shot was meticulously storyboarded. The spooky, bare lighting enveloping Williams in every scene and the spartan set design create a glare that seems to reveal all of his character's loneliness. Furthermore, their are languid shots of film being developed that add an artistic twist and infuse the film with a free form meditative segue not found in most movies. The director/writer has made a remarkably smooth transition from pop videos to indie films. Ironically, Romanek's fan base on MTV would most probably never go see a movie like this, unless, of course, they were really mature 14-year olds.

Although One Hour Photo is about a man's sad, lonely and insane existence, it does have its funny moments. Albeit, those moments are few and in no way qualifies as comedy relief from the tense and heavy plot. This movie is not a first date movie or a family movie or a brain-dead movie, it's a sad, thinking movie. But it's beautiful and the acting is top-notch and it's one of this year's sleeper hits. And just the fact that Robin Williams plays a bad guy should be enough of an incentive to see this flick. It's like finding out one of your prim and proper acquaintances is now a stripper- you gotta go see her show, right? I hope Williams gets an Academy Nomination (not that it's worth anything but a cover in Entertainment Weekly).


One Hour Photo
1 hour 38 minutes

Robin Williams
Michael Vartan
Connie Nielsen
Andrew A Rolfes
Carmen Mormino