[B-D Review] ‘One Hour Photo’ is a Milestone in Williams’ Career

Reviewed by Mike Ferraro

There was a lot of excitement over Mark Romanek’s feature-length directorial debut. First, it was a milestone for Robin Williams’ career. Instead of playing his typical comedic or traditionally dramatic role, he steered more towards a creepy villain-esque character work. Despite also playing a villain in another film of the same year (Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia remake), it is in One Hour Photo where Williams’ performance finds greater success.

Secondly, Romanek might be responsible for directing the greatest music video ever put to screen (Johnny Cash’s Hurt cover plays as almost a perfect eulogy by the man himself). So who wouldn’t be excited to see what this guy could create in theatrical setting?

Seymour Parrish (Robin Williams) is a lonesome photo lab technician working out of a rather large department store. He isn’t the sort of character you would imagine as having a big set of friends in the outside world. It’s clear that his life is rather dull and empty. His apartment contains no real decoration, outside of some rather plain furniture pieces clearly picked out of necessity instead of creativity.

He has worked in the photo lab for over a decade and in that time became overly dedicated to printing the perfect photo, even if his customers don’t really notice the difference. One of the more notable things in Seymour’s life are his customers who he has watched grow over time by studying the pictures they bring in to develop.

His favorite customer is Nina Yorkin (Connie Nielsen), wife of Will Yorkin and mother of Jakob. Nina is a regular and Seymour lights up every time she walks into the store (especially when Jakob is with her). Through his work, he has watched this family bloom from couple-hood to parenthood. Sy the Photo Guy, a nickname given to him by Jakob, has even had the glory of watching this boy grow up over time.

One Hour Photo begins with such an intriguing premise but ultimately hinders on problematic pacing and writing issues. Romanek’s script can’t seem to decide whom or what it’s more interested in – the Yorkin’s transition from perfection to broken, or Sy himself. By the latter half of the film, when the Yorkin’s perfect family image is shattered by infidelity, Parrish’s mental state swings for the fences. It all happens so sudden but without any real surprise. The film rarely provides clues as to who Parrish really is and when it decides to finally reveal his true past, it’s a tad too late.

And that is the true dilemma. There is plenty to compliment about One Hour Photo and it certainly does more right than wrong. Romanek’s direction and Williams’ restrained performance walk hand-in-hand with each other, complimented further by Jeff Cronenweth’s (Fight Club, The Social Network) cinematography.

This recently released blu-ray contains a ton of special features that are more geared towards film students than anything. There is a section dedicated to the rehearsal process, where you can see how Williams really started to shape his performance as Sy. There is a commentary track with Romanek and Williams, of which the latter is more reserved and thoughtful than you’d expect. They both discuss many of the film’s themes (some of which simply get lost in the writing’s shortcomings). Regardless, it is a pretty solid track, which again, aims more towards students or scholars more so than the casual audience.

The disc also includes a storyboard gallery of almost the entire film, a Cinemax promo, a feature on Sy’s nightmare sequence, and a location featurette. It also contains a Charlie Rose Show episode with the director and star, a Sundance: Anatomy of a Scene segment that breaks down the scene in which Sy meets Mr. Yorkin in an aisle of the store.

Overall, this is a pretty solid disc packed with enough special features to keep you busy for a while. However, the worst part of the disc comes from the transfer itself. The look of the film is almost ruined with grain and jitters, that at times, feels like you’re watching a DVD. You have to wonder if Fox even consulted Romanek himself about the transfer or if the film has an audience or following strong enough to warrant another release to fix the picture issues.

Official Score

  • chris99x

    I’ve always been curious to see the original cut of this film, since it was supposedly vastly different.