One Hour Photo

2001, Movie, R, 98 mins

Review

ONE HOUR PHOTO
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The gradual build-up to the final moments of this smart and deeply unsettling psychological thriller from ace music video director Mark Romanek (the man behind the classic Nine Inch Nails video "Closer") is so good that the actual climax comes as something of a disappointment. For the past 11 years, Seymour "Sy" Parrish (a perfectly creepy Robin Williams) has been manning the one-hour photo counter at the local SavMart, and it's a job he takes very seriously. He not only makes good on SavMart's promise to deliver beautiful prints in less than an hour, but he considers himself an artist and keeps the store's minilab in tip-top shape. Sy knows just how important photos are, especially to lonely voyeurs like himself who value the glimpses snapshots can offer into other, happier lives. Over the years, Sy has grown extremely fond of the Yorkin family, especially mom Nina (Connie Nielsen) and her 9-year-old son, Jake (Dylan Smith), whom Sy has watched grow up through baby pictures, holiday snapshots and family vacation photos. For each roll Nina drops off, Sy processes two sets of prints — one for the Yorkins, one for himself — and dreams of somehow worming his way into the bosom of this lovely family. But no one ever takes pictures of the bad times, and the Yorkins aren't nearly as happy as their 4 x 6 glossies suggest. Nina feels her husband, Will (Michael Vartan), is emotionally neglectful; he accuses her of living beyond their means for the sake of keeping up appearances. When "Uncle Sy" processes a roll of film that suddenly exposes the lie behind the Yorkins' picture-perfect life, he springs into action with a sense of purpose that's truly chilling. Like Michael Mann's MANHUNTER, the film probes the modern fear that we inadvertently leave the door to our private lives wide open all the time, and there's no telling who's going to walk in. Tom Foden's deliberately drab, antiseptic production design is perfect — the orderly aisles of the SavMart become an ironic reflection of Sy's psyche — and Romanek's smart script is filled with sharp, and at times even poignant, observations about photos and the people who take them. Too bad that he feels compelled to tie it all up with a banal pop-psych explanation that offers an all-too-simplistic solution to an otherwise uncommonly complex thriller. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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