One Hour Photo !!EXCLUSIVE!!
One Hour Photo is a 2002 American psychological thriller film written and directed by Mark Romanek and starring Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Gary Cole, and Eriq La Salle. The film was produced by Catch 23 Entertainment, Killer Films, and John Wells Productions and released by Fox Searchlight Pictures. The film stars Williams as a photo technician who develops an unhealthy obsession with a family to whom he has long provided services.
One Hour Photo
Seymour "Sy" Parrish is a photo technician at a one-hour photo in big-box store SavMart. He lives alone, has no friends or love life, and lives only for his work, which he considers a "vital service". His favorite customers are the Yorkin family, whose photos he has developed for many years. Over the years, he has grown obsessed with the family, enshrining them in his home with their photos that he secretly copies. However, as he is shy and socially inept, his attempts to become closer to the family are gently rebuffed.
While inspecting a customer's photos, Sy discovers that Will Yorkin is having an extramarital affair, and his idyllic conception of the Yorkins as the perfect family is shattered. He surreptitiously places the photos of Will and his mistress, Maya Burson, into a packet of photos that Nina was scheduled to pick up. Meanwhile, Sy then takes pictures paparazzi-style of Bill's young daughter, then sends the film with the photos to Yoshi (another SavMart employee), who then turns them over to Bill. This triggers a police investigation into Sy.
In accordance with the photography-themed movie, the names of several characters are drawn from actual photographers: Sy's assistant at the Savmart, Yoshi Araki (named for Nobuyoshi Araki), manager Bill Owens (Gary Cole); Det. Van Der Zee (James Van Der Zee); Det. Outerbridge (Paul Outerbridge); Maya Burson (Nancy Burson); and Savmart customers Mrs. von Unwerth (Ellen von Unwerth) and Mr. Siskind (Aaron Siskind).
In one of the voice-over pieces Sy can be heard to say, "They actually believe that any idiot that attends a two-day seminar can master the art of making beautiful prints in less than an hour. But of course, like most things, there's far more to it than meets the eye." Williams prepared for the role by training for two and-a-half days in a Southern California photo development lab.
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"One Hour Photo" tells the story of Seymour "Sy" Parrish, who works behind the photo counter of one of those vast suburban retail barns. He has a bland, anonymous face, and a cheerful voice that almost conceals his desperation and loneliness. He takes your film, develops it, and has your photos ready in an hour. Sometimes he even gives you 5-by-7s when all you ordered were 4-by-6s. His favorite customers are the Yorkins--Nina, Will and cute young Jake. They've been steady customers for years. When they bring in their film, he makes an extra set of prints--for himself.
Sy follows an unvarying routine. There is a diner where he eats, alone, methodically. He is an "ideal employee." He has no friends, a co-worker observes. But the Yorkins serve him as a surrogate family, and he is their self-appointed Uncle Sy. Only occasionally does the world get a glimpse of the volcanic side of his personality, as when he gets into an argument with Larry, the photo machine repairman.
The Yorkin family is at first depicted as ideal: models for an ad for their suburban lifestyle. Nina Yorkin (Connie Nielsen), pretty and fresh-scrubbed, has a cheery public persona. Will (Michael Vartan) is your regular clean-cut guy. Young Jake (Dylan Smith) is cute as a picture. Mark Romanek, who wrote and directed the film, is sneaky in the way he so subtly introduces discordant elements into his perfect picture. A tone of voice, a half-glimpsed book cover, a mistaken order, a casual aside ... they don't mean much by themselves, but they add up to an ominous cloud, gathering over the photo counter.
A man who works in a one-hour photo operation might seem to be relatively powerless. Certainly Sy's boss thinks so. But in an era when naked baby pictures can be interpreted as child abuse, the man with access to your photos can cause you a lot of trouble. What would happen, for example, if Will Yorkin is having an affair, and his mistress brings in photos to be developed, and Uncle Sy "mistakenly" hands them to Nina Yorkin? The movie at first seems soundly grounded in everyday reality, in the routine of a predictable job. When Romanek departs from reality, he does it subtly, sneakily, so that we believe what we see until he pulls the plug. There is one moment I will not describe (in order not to ruin it) when Sy commits a kind of social trespass that has the audience stirring with quiet surprise: Surprise, because until they see the scene they don't realize that his innocent, everyday act can be a shocking transgression in the wrong context.
Watching the film, I thought of Michael Powell's great 1960 British thriller "Peeping Tom," which was about a photographer who killed his victims with a stiletto concealed in his camera. Sy uses a psychological stiletto, but he's the same kind of character, the sort of man you don't much notice, who blends in, accepted, overlooked, left alone so that his rich secret life can flower. There is a moment in "Peeping Tom" when a shot suddenly reveals the full depth of the character's depravity. In "One Hour Photo," a shot with a similar purpose requires only a lot of innocent family snapshots, displayed in a way that is profoundly creepy.
Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) cares deeply about making sure that the snapshots he develops at the SaveMart are as perfect as the family life he dreams that they represent. What captures Sy's attention is the peek inside lives of vibrancy, intimacy, connection, warmth, and affection. And the family that seems most perfect to him is Will and Nina Yorkin and their 9-year-old son, Jake. Inside the Yorkin house, though, Will accuses Nina of wanting her life to be like the pictures she looks at in magazines. Nina accuses Will of neglecting Jake and being distant from her. Another customer's photo order gives Sy evidence that Will Yorkin does not appreciate his family. And Sy's boss (Gary Cole) fires him for making hundreds of prints that are unaccounted for. He dreams of walking down endless, colorless, empty aisles at SaveMart, the bare shelves rising behind him like the wings of an avenging angel and his eyes spurting dark red blood. One Hour Photo begins with Sy having his mug shot taken in a police station. A detective tells him that they have developed his pictures and they are "not pretty." So we know from the beginning that something bad will happen.
Writer/director Mark Romanek handles mood and tone well, but the film ends up being too much about images and surfaces, more artificial itself than the artificiality it attempts to depict. It's not about anything real. It's about what Romanek imagines middle America to be like. Romanek shows Sy and his small corner of the cavernous SaveMart in the blandest of neutral colors with cool undertones. The Yorkins, in person and in the photos meticulously color-balanced by Sy, are shown in warm, bright, vivid colors, while everything about Sy is beige, even his hair.
Families can talk about the role that photographs play in their own lives. Would someone looking at your family's photographs get an accurate picture of your family? They could also talk about whether we do enough to pay attention to people who are less fortunate and may be lonely.
Part Two of Robin Williams' rehabilitation (see Insomnia for further details) sees the furry comedian stray even further from the hapless creature of sentiment we had all grown to know and loathe (see Patch Adams for further details). But One Hour Photo is not merely Williams changing his look and staying in character: as lonely photo lab technician Sy Parrish, Williams really stretches his acting muscles, finding moments of vulnerable sweetness in a man who could come off as a one-dimensional weirdo.
If you've seen "One Hour Photo" before, you know the hotel room scene is where all of Sy's wall of calculated inhibitions come crumbling down into something more unpredictably disturbing. The thing that ultimately sets him off into protector mode is when he happens upon another customer's photos that show Nina's husband, Will (Michael Vartan), having an affair. It triggers memories of his father, naturally.
"People take pictures of the happy moments in their lives. Someone looking through our photo album would conclude that we had led a joyous, leisurely existence... free of tragedy. No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget."
Released to critical and commercial success, this movie gave Williams a much-needed Career Resurrection and, along with Insomnia and Death to Smoochy, helped usher in the so-called "dark period" of the actor's career, where he brought disturbing subtexts of his protagonists to the forefront after spending several years making movies considered by the public to be overly maudlin. Despite digital photography making photo developing somewhat obsolete, the movie is still incredibly effective as a psychological thriller. 041b061a72