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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 17.91%
Just Average: 16.42%
Pretty Crappy: 10.45%
Sucks: 1.49%

9 reviews, 80 user ratings

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One Hour Photo
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by Rob Gonsalves

"A cold and annoying experience."
2 stars

The very name carries a whiff of defeat and resignation: Sy Parrish -- "Sy" is short for Seymour, cinema's favorite shorthand for "loser" at least since "Little Shop of Horrors." In 2002's most loudly heralded bit of stunt casting, Robin Williams, dialing himself down to 1 or 2, plays this bleached lost soul Sy, who works diligently at a photo center in a suburban mall.

Sy's surroundings have been drained of color, too, as if to match his pallor, or as if to suggest that the implacable sameness of retail long ago bled the life from his veins. Nothing pumps through Sy's body now except need, envy, and, so we gradually gather, psychosis.

One Hour Photo is a slick piece of work, with a conscientiously clenched performance by Williams, but it left me cold and sickened in all the wrong ways. First-time writer-director Mark Romanek, yet another MTV refugee, seems to have taken the entirety of his film's ideas from a Beatles song: He's a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans for nobody. Isn't he a bit like you and me? Well, no. Most of us do not fixate on a seemingly happy family to the extent of pasting photos of them all over the wall. (The image of Sy surveying his furtive collection recalls Robert De Niro playing to a cardboard audience in The King of Comedy -- one of many films Romanek burgles -- and it was scarier and funnier there.) Sy zeroes in on the presentable Nina (Connie Nielsen) and her darling son Jake (Dylan Smith), suffering the father of the family, Will (Michael Vartan), as a necessary irritant, but only up to a point.

It would be nice to report, as one of the ad blurbs does, that the movie does for photo developing what Psycho did for showers; certainly the premise -- a wingnut stroking his gloved and trembling hands over images of you and yours -- is an outsize advertisement for digital cameras. But Thomas Harris' Red Dragon gave us a similarly employed killer 21 years ago; read by millions, and adapted twice for the big screen, the story didn't frighten masses away from photo kiosks. The movie uses Sy as a watcher, an eternal outsider doomed to see, over and over again, what he cannot have -- family happiness, the joy of companionship. Such a figure demands serious treatment (think what Kieslowski might've done with it), not the artsy audience-tweaking schlock this fundamentally is.

Any film that counts cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth (Fight Club) in its corner almost has to be eye candy, and One Hour Photo is; the contrast between the family's warm, earth-colored furnishings and Sy's bleak white ice cave of an apartment is so stark that you could conceivably watch the film with the sound off and still catch most of the meanings. But, unfortunately, the sound is on, and we get Sy in voice-over ruminating on the significance of photos: "Nobody takes a picture of something they want to forget." So what does Sy want to forget? What brought him to this place in his existence? Romanek can't be bothered with such stuff; he's too eager to get to the climax, as it were, wherein Sy turns knife-wielding madman and terrorizes his prey into disgusting, intimate tableaux for his camera.

At times, Romanek seems scarcely different from Sy. His camera feasts on Sy's emptiness and hardly finds time to endow Nina or Jake with personalities; they're just nice wealthy people in danger. And therein lies One Hour Photo's real sickness: There's an unacknowledged and diseased class resentment rattling around inside this psychothriller, and it bounces both ways. "You have a beautiful house," Sy tells the wary Will, "if you don't mind my saying so." Never mind why a family well-off enough to have a flat widescreen TV wouldn't have gotten a digital camera years ago. One Hour Photo comes close to saying that the upper class shouldn't trust the smiling guy behind the retail counter. It also seems to say that if the Ninas and Wills of the world get a Sy on their case, they have it coming.

At the center of all this is Robin Williams, in the final panel of his twisted anti-Patch Adams triptych of 2002, giving himself dutifully to the role and to the director's "vision." Everyone seems amazed that Williams is playing a repressed psycho, as if he hadn't already done that just a few months prior in Insomnia, in which we were not encouraged to feel, as the sensitive Jake does, that the psycho is sad and pitiable. Williams is amped to give a classic creepy performance, but once the script has him fondling a hunting knife it's all over for him.

Romanek pushes the movie in a wrong, stupid direction, and it ends rather haplessly, with Sy suggesting that he knows something about Will that the police -- and, up to this point, the audience -- don't know (or perhaps he's referring to a trauma in his own past -- one can't be sure). Well, which is it? Is Sy a madman or a misguided guardian angel? We sit with the uncertainty of that when the lights go up, and it's not a fine, unsettled uncertainty -- it's closer to the ruffled, violated feeling of having been manipulated for its own sake.

"One Hour Photo" is calculated to send 'em out buzzing, but it's the wrong kind of buzz.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5742&reviewer=416
originally posted: 12/27/06 19:51:45
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell creepy but overdone 3 stars
11/03/14 action movie fan eerie compelling psychological drama- held my interest 4 stars
12/05/12 Delbert Unforgettable. Frightening and Sad. 5 stars
8/19/11 RLan Robin Williams creepy performance is the highlight of this film. 3 stars
5/09/11 Stephanie One of the creepiest movies I've seen. Changes Robin Williams for ya forever! 4 stars
8/29/08 Shaun Wallner The storyline is well made! 5 stars
7/25/07 Quigley Very creepy. Sex was off-putting. Has the scariest dream sequence ever. Williams is superb 5 stars
12/02/06 David Pollastrini williams plays a psycho pretty well 4 stars
4/12/06 chris f the most touching yet sad film ive ever watched - a masterpeice 5 stars
9/02/05 ES Better than Insomnia, Willams always had the creepy weirdo thing going on 3 stars
7/20/05 Chris Worth look, quite scary (photo stalking anyone?) 4 stars
7/14/05 Indrid Cold Good acting and direction, but not particularly interesting or suspenseful. 3 stars
11/14/04 DM Jack Sommersby was dropped on his head when he was little. 4 stars
5/10/04 scott wolstencroft it was a very good movie it was really enjoyable 4 stars
3/29/04 KGB Why not, it was very disturbing, not original but thought provoking 5 stars
3/06/04 Vinny Why not? 5 stars
1/02/04 A F Why? 2 stars
1/01/04 R.W. Welch Williams nails his role as lonely weirdo. 4 stars
12/24/03 Mike If you're involved in such technicalities, well worth a look. The whole concept of voyeurs. 3 stars
12/09/03 Samuel A great thriller!! 3 stars
10/28/03 Artist Freak Well crafted in some senses technically but ultimately dull and trite 3 stars
10/16/03 Josh Standlee More like a freaking made-for-t.v. movie. Hated it! 1 stars
9/28/03 Honolulu Tur As noted, creepy, but that doesn't mean it was good, just creep 3 stars
9/23/03 DM Creepy and well-acted; ending leaves something to be desired 4 stars
9/22/03 Alice Good Acting, liked it ! 5 stars
9/13/03 Jim Creepy 5 stars
8/29/03 Grenadine Homer RW was excellent. Did wonder about 1hr photos & now wonder about Pharmacists! 4 stars
7/28/03 chris hey...is that my neighbor?? 5 stars
4/07/03 Mystique great thriller 5 stars
3/28/03 BoB Best movie ive ever seen! 5 stars
3/11/03 Matthew Smith a nervewracking experience, Robin Williams really bought that sense of unease to his role 5 stars
2/26/03 brentley Robin Williams' Sy Parrish is sad, yet very creeeeeeeepy.... 4 stars
2/25/03 Andrew Carden Eerie and Disturbing Thriller... 5 stars
2/25/03 Ken Creepy and disturbing. The ending was to subtle for most, apparently. 4 stars
2/21/03 scott A OKAY FIM 3 stars
2/21/03 Paul W. "no real subtext," you say? I say, EXACTLY! 5 stars
2/17/03 Phillip Williams is totally captivating. A gripping film. 5 stars
2/14/03 Ant A great film. Williams gives one of the best performances of 2002. 5 stars
2/12/03 alien assassin Robin Williams is creepy !!!! 4 stars
1/31/03 caitlin doyle lots of suspense 5 stars
11/04/02 Michael Buehler Rosita at Walgreens knows what you got for Christmas. Go Digital for Crying Out Loud! 5 stars
10/28/02 Unanon Forced in parts, Tidy wrap-up attempt at end failed utterly. 4 stars
10/09/02 Hawaiiantomboy07 Great Movie with an awful ending. What happens to anyone???????? 4 stars
10/09/02 Georgeous A refreshing change from teen "comedies" and rip-offs 5 stars
9/29/02 STEVE wow!hollywood trying to make a movie with originality.now thats scary! 4 stars
9/27/02 Mark G. The scariest movie ever produced by hollywood in the last 4 years. Incredible. 5 stars
9/25/02 Morally Sound Darkly delicious and creepy. 5 stars
9/24/02 snowconehead This is the first time one single actor has successfully carried an extremely slow movie 5 stars
9/21/02 Nicole Successfully creepy but the ending leaves you wanting something more 4 stars
9/18/02 jashuay the scene where the blood gushes from his eyes fucking rocks! and master w. is gay. the end 5 stars
9/18/02 Dave Grant I thought this movie sucked, and I wished I had of left half-way through. Not worth a dime 1 stars
9/17/02 .Choadushouse. Beautiful direction. Worth seeing just for that. I'm so glad Romanek is doing movies now! 5 stars
9/15/02 Etherealcelt The day after seeing ONE HOUR PHOTO I went to Wallmart and got scared. Great movie! 4 stars
9/15/02 malcolm this is the same guy who played Mork from Ork?! 5 stars
9/15/02 mrchar awesome performance and good camera work 5 stars
9/14/02 Steve Too damn slow! 2 stars
9/14/02 rue the whirl IT ROCKED. SEE IT. 4 stars
9/14/02 Kisuta Great movie. Visually exellent. 5 stars
9/13/02 Tooltime Taylor Smile for the camera!! **crack!**YOU'RE NOT SMILING, THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN!!! HA HA HA 5 stars
9/12/02 Heather C-r-e-e-p-y Stellar performance from Robin Williams 5 stars
9/11/02 ajay the sex was hot---oh wrong movie. Yeah, it's really good. 5 stars
9/09/02 puckfreak Robin Williams blah, blah, blah... the rest of the movie is barely above average. 4 stars
9/05/02 Butterbean The ending saves this from becoming a cliched stalker flick. 4 stars
9/04/02 Zach The music fit the movie so well.I never knew an orchastra could scare me.GaveMeChills!!!!!! 5 stars
9/01/02 Film Dude Deserves a wider release. 5 stars
9/01/02 Film Guy Good movie. a little slow at times but still good 4 stars
8/26/02 bonnie blue Surprisingly pure of Hollywood! Deeply sensitive, frightening rendering of human loneliness 5 stars
8/25/02 Obi Wan Movie is worth a look, moved kinda slow and where the hell are the final pictures? 4 stars
8/25/02 ray wow, haven't seen better all year. 5 stars
8/25/02 K-ronik Blown away. Never seen Wiliams better. 5 stars
8/06/02 Stan Wonderful movie..Robin Williams deserves a Best Actor for this one... 5 stars
8/05/02 Scouse Fuckin Very Good Robin At His Best Showing What A Great Actor He Is So Versatile 5 stars
5/19/02 Travis Eddings Mesmerizing, tremendously creepy 5 stars
5/14/02 BaitedSoul Great job by Williams, but the movie was a little too twisted for me 3 stars
4/21/02 Mikey Williams is amazing. The man has tons of talent. I saw the film on a smuggled screener.., 5 stars
4/10/02 Keith Brilliant. This will be huge. 5 stars
4/09/02 spikeme all the time Robin FINALLY GOT GAME with this and Death to Smoochy 5 stars
3/27/02 :: c0ry ::(c0d3 1989) Mark Romanek has crafted one of the most important and visionary films in a long time 5 stars
3/17/02 me good stuff...feels like an american beauty kinda 4 stars
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  21-Aug-2002 (R)



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