September 27, 2002

One Hour Freak

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Let me just tell you, I’ll never feel the same about getting my pictures developed again. Robin Williams stars in writer-director Mark Romanek’s tremendous psychological thriller One Hour Photo.

Williams stars as Seymour “Sy” Parrish, an average film worker at a local suburban supermarket chain. Clearly mentally warped from the start, “Sy the Photo Guy” begins to become obsessed with a local family. His obsession goes one step too far and the film ventures into pure psychological mayhem.

What makes this film so frightening is that everyone knows “that” guy. You know, the one who delivers your newspaper, or washes your car, or even pours your coffee every morning. The unsuspecting villain, this guy (or girl for that matter) has always seemed a little strange, but nothing to truly worry about. No one ever really makes the comment that maybe this guy is more sinister than just a little weird.

Filming in a strictly beige colored world of loneliness, Romanek captures Sy’s distant life. He eats at family restaurants alone, hangs out at flea markets, and does not even laugh at the Simpsons. His boss (Gary Cole in a convincing performance) gets on his case and soon finds out this guy is not one to mess with.

The horror generated is very similar to that of Cape Fear. Connie Nielson, Michael Vartan (a sort of Tom Cruise look-alike), and young Dylan Smith star as the Yorkins, the seemingly perfect suburban family that becomes the object of Williams’ obsession. Dressed in sleek black and living in a gorgeous house with that brand new state-of-art television, the Yorkins never think twice when dropping their film off for developing.

But why would they? Sy is just a simple, lonely man who wears the same outfit everyday with gray velcro shoes. The story, however, is told from his point of view, which is full of his insane commentary. As he slowly and completely loses touch with reality, he begins to live through the pictures, his own sense of life.

He is not weak and the audience certainly does not feel bad for him. Williams plays Sy without any self-pity; he does not feel bad for his actions and is not asking for anyone else’s sympathy. But maybe some attention wouldn’t hurt.

Williams is clearly at the top of his game. Possibly ranking as one of the top five most versatile actors in Hollywood, during his career he has dabbled in everything from Mork and Mindy to Good Will Hunting, and he just added to the spectrum.

The camerawork also lent a freaky feel to the entire film. Still frames are constantly thrown in as well as fantastic scenes of Williams traveling through the spooky aisles of the ever-so-common supermarket. The simplicity of Sy’s poor life is portrayed accurately as the film shows him going through his day to day activities without any suspicion, driving along peacefully in his Toyota Echo.

So the next time you are getting your personal pictures developed, just think about who is actually looking at them on the other side of that photo wall. Oohh, don’t you just feel the shivers up your spine? If not, go see One Hour Photo and you will.

Archived article by Cory Sinclair