Eric La Salle
From now on, I’m taking my pictures with a digital camera.
I never did understand why people said they were afraid of taking showersafter seeing the original Psycho, or that they were afraid to swim inthe ocean after Jaws. Their fears came off as exaggerated reactionsto mere movies. But after seeing Mark Romanek’s One Hour Photo, I nowknow where they were coming from.
Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) is the middle-aged manager of thephoto-printing department of SavMart, a large Wal-Mart-like emporium. He isa devoted perfectionist, providing service to the inhabitants of thisinsular community, but he lives a rather lonely existence, eating his mealsin the local coffee shops and going home to a nearly bare apartment.
However, Sy harbors a secret fantasy. Having developed the pictures ofthe Yorkins-Nina (Connie Nielsen), her husband Will (Michael Vartan) andtheir son Jake (Dylan Smith)- for years, he has begun to see himself as partof the family: “Uncle” Sy, who buys toys for Jake and awaits theirhomecoming while sitting on their couch. Eventually the fantasy begins toblur with reality, and Sy’s projection into the Yorkins’ life prompts ademand for order and harmony that leads inexorably to calamity.
Sy is a man who, on the surface, leads a simple, routine life. Butbeneath the retail-forced smile and polite counter conversation lies anindividual who is a ticking time bomb capable of becoming your worstnightmare with the slightest push. Romanek, a former music video director,has captured a terrific, intense atmosphere (perfectly shot by JeffCronenweth) out of the minimalist sets and locations that is backed by hisscreenplay rich in detailing its main character.
All of that detail and atmosphere would be for naught if Robin Williamswere not in the lead role. Sy could almost be seen as a distant relative tothe murdering novelist he played in Insomnia. Williams, as he did inthat film, vanishes into his character, making it very easy for the viewerto forget whom we’re watching onscreen. He’s created a character that wefear, despise and pity. Few in Hollywood could pull off this type ofdelicate balancing act but Williams does it and makes it look very easy inthe process. He receives excellent support from Nielsen, Vartan and Smithas the Yorkins, Gary Cole (Office Space) as Sy’s jerk of a boss andEric La Salle in a small role as a police detective.
One Hour Photo is a thriller of the best kind: one respectful ofthe viewer’s imagination and intelligence. By not showing us or spelling outeverything for us, Romanek and Williams have made a believable chiller thathaunts you for quite some time afterwards.