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" Corpsicle "
— Kathleen Quinlan, Event Horizon

MRQE Top Critic

The East

The East emerges as an exciting piece of filmmaking from the independent scene’s hott —Matt Anderson (review...)

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Although many are simply dismissing Robin Williams’ performance in One Hour Photo as just another film in his dark phase, One Hour Photo stands far apart from Death to Smoochy and Insomnia and could very well be the picture that wins the comedian his long-awaited Best Actor Oscar.

Indecent Exposure

Sy the photo guy checks his smileIn One Hour Photo, everyone’s favorite funnyman does a frighteningly perfect 180 as Sy Parrish, a local one-hour photo clerk whose loneliness is temporarily forgotten when he takes an interest in a frequent customer named Nina Yorkin (Gladiator’s Connie Nielsen) and her family. As the years pass, Sy’s interest in the family continues to grow until one day his actions become more stalker-like than nice and welcoming. It isn’t until he discovers that his picture-perfect family isn’t so perfect after all that Sy’s fantasies of stepping into the family take over, and the Yorkins find their lives jeopardized by someone who they never once thought of as anyone more than “Sy, the photo guy.”

The Birth of a Mad Man

Writer/director Mark Romanek brilliantly makes the bold decision to cast Williams as Sy Parrish, and 15 minutes into the film audiences will find it impossible to picture anyone else as the mentally disturbed photo clerk. Williams literally transforms himself in the role, not only physically (he’s almost unrecognizable under the bleached blonde hair and glasses), but also as an actor. Even with Insomnia and Death to Smoochy Williams has never showcased his disturbed side more than with One Hour Photo, and the former Mrs. Doubtfire is so believable and creepy in the role that the public will never again simply label him as just a comedian.

Williams’ performance aside, One Hour Photo shines for the eerie yet bland atmosphere Romanek creates for Sy to live in, one that represents middle America’s routine life quite well. The majority of the film takes place in the very spotless, bright and white SavMart convenience store (think Wal-Mart, only blander) where Sy works, an environment that the character easily disappears in since he’s so boring-looking himself. Meanwhile, the photos he develops of the Yorkin family are filled with color and beauty, and represent a world Sy would easily stand out in but desperately would love to become a part of. Romanek uses this color contrast to bring Sy’s vision of the two worlds to viewers in a way they can understand, since most people can relate to seeing their own lives as routine, bland and boring whenever looking at someone else’s photographs.

Family Ties

However, for as exciting and picture-perfect as the Yorkins are supposed to be in Sy’s eyes, audiences will never truly grasp his fascination with the family outside of the fact he’s developed their pictures for so long. With the exception of young Jake Yorkin (Dylan Smith), nobody in the family even knows Sy’s name and, despite being obsessed with his life for almost nine years, Sy has only met Will Yorkin (Michael Vartan) in the flesh once. While this works out to the viewer’s advantage since no one in the film besides Sy seems the least bit interesting, audiences will still leave the film wishing that Romanek spent more time inside Sy’s head so that they could understand the relationship he felt he had with the family. Furthermore, it would have also been nice to see more of the Yorkin’s interactions with each other as well as their interactions with Sy so that viewers could get a true feeling for who these people really were and what caused Sy to think they lived the perfect life.

A Star is Re-Born

Nevertheless, even with these small, underdeveloped moments in the script, One Hour Photo remains that rare psychological drama that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats waiting to see what will develop next. Williams is positively superb in the film, and fans of his who skip out on seeing him as Sy Parrish simply because they don’t want to picture him as anything but a comedian will truly be missing out on the performance of his lifetime. A chilling and haunting score by Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek only heightens the suspense Williams’ and Romanek create in the film, making One Hour Photo a nail-biting experience that gets under the viewer’s skin and is hard to wash off.