One Hour Photo (2002)
Main cast: Robin Williams (Seymour Parrish), Connie Nielsen (Nina Yorkin), Michael Vartan (Will Yorkin), Dylan Smith (Jakob Yorkin), Eriq La Salle (Det James Van Der Zee), Erin Daniels (Maya Burson), Paul H Kim (Yoshi Araki), and Gary Cole (Bill Owens)
Director: Mark Romanek


One Hour Photo sees Robin Williams taking on the role of a no-life sociopath who turns psycho towards the end. Like many other films of this "suburbania sucks, and I'm going to kill you all, bitch!" genre, One Hour Photo's greatest flaw is its own calculated nature.

For example, in order for me to emphatize with Williams' character, Seymour Parrish, I must accept that working at the local Wal-Mart is a dreary existence. Fair enough. But then it proceeds to depict the supermarket that Seymour works in like some white-washed padded room bathed with light prison visited by zombie-like customers with lifeless eyes, as if it doesn't trust me to get the idea that suburban life sucks. Look, Romanek, I know. Don't talk down to me, please.

Seymour has no family, no decent furniture in his apartment, no hobby, nothing. He works at the photo development counter, so he weaves his fantasies around this family who is a regular. He imagines that he's the uncle of lil' Jacob Yorkin ("Your Kin", geddit, geddit? Romanek, why don't you just take the film school bible and smack me in the face with it? We can't get any more heavy-handed, can we?). The mother, Nina, is kind and seems to care, making Seymour burrow deeper and deeper into his fantasies. When a woman one days submits negatives to be developed and Seymour realizes that the woman is having an affair with the Jakob's daddy, Will, he snaps and proceeds to punish Will.

It's a pity that this movie has to rely on over-showy and sometimes hammy scenes and expositions. I actually cringe at the penultimate scene in this movie, because it is so exaggerated, like an overblown cry for attention. A pity because underneath the surface, the script does do a great job in detailing Seymour's loneliness and alienation from his surroundings. Hey, I get lonely too sometimes, and I understand. Why can't Romanek trust me to get his message?

But forget Williams - the heart of this movie is the mesmerizing Connie Nielsen. First Gladiator and now this, she seems to have the knack of playing women who look deceptively weak on the outside but with backbones of pure steel. Her Nina makes it so easy for me - and Seymour - to care, and she seems to bring out the best from all around her. Michael Vartan, always an actor of limited range, doesn't do much here, although the Vartan Hos will rejoice at the sight of his full frontal nudity scene. That is, if they can overlook the squirm-inducing circumstances behind his character's full frontal show.

No matter. One Hour Photo never lets me forget that I'm watching a movie where Robin Williams is playing psycho, but it's still a worthwhile watch, thanks to the generally well-done performances from the main cast. If only Romanek has trusted me - and himself - to let his story flow without heavy-handed expositions, this movie will be so good.

Somehow the portrayal of a suburban hell in One Hour Photo that has nothing in common with real life suburban low just seems vaguely unsatisfying and even pretentious. Everything's so white and antiseptic, it's really too neat and tidy. Nothing at all like real life it is supposed to satire.

Rating: 82


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