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Mark Romanek
Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Dylan Smith, Erin Daniels, Gary Cole
Writing Credits:
Mark Romanek

There's nothing more dangerous than a familiar face.
Box Office:
Budget $12 million.
Opening weekend $321,515 on 7 screens.
Domestic gross $31.597 million.
Rated R for sexual content and language.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround
French Dolby Surround
English, Spanish

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 2/18/2003

• Writer/Director/Actor Commentary
• "Anatomy of a Scene" Sundance Channel Featurette
• "Making Of" Featurette
• The Charlie Rose Show Interview With Robin Williams and Mark Romanek
• Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots

Score soundtrack

Search Products:

TV - Mitsubishi CS-32310 32"; Subwoofer - JBL PB12; DVD Player - Toshiba SD-4700; Receiver - Sony STR-DE845; Center - Polk Audio CS175i; Front Channels - Polk Audio; Rear Channels - Polk Audio.


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One Hour Photo (2002)

Reviewed by David Williams

A shutter is clicked … a flash goes off … and you’ve stopped time, if just for the blink of an eye. And if these pictures have anything to say to future generations it’s this – “I was here … I existed … I was young … I was happy and someone cared enough about me in this world to take my picture.”

Robin Williams is changing his clean-cut image and I love it. Although he’s had a few serious roles – and one that won him an Oscar in Good Will Hunting - his films have always been rather safe and audience friendly. However, with One Hour Photo, he blows that image away in a brilliantly disturbing performance as Seymour Parrish, a polite middle-aged photo lab technician at a non-descript suburban mass retailer, SavMart. Sy’s the type of guy we run across every day in every town across America and is the type of person that we seldom give a second glance to. He’s busting his chops at what’s more than likely a minimum-wage job and inking out a living taking crap from folks at a one-hour photo lab. However, hearing Sy tell it, he’s performing an invaluable service to mankind and he loves his work so much that his attention-to-detail with the pictures he’s responsible for is something that’s definitely lacking at yours or my local Wal-Mart.

However, when we first meet Sy, he’s having his picture taken – at a police department – and he’s being interviewed by an investigator (Eriq LaSalle) on the force. Seems that Sy has been placed under arrest for something he did to the Yorkin family (“Your Kin” … Interesting). After a little bit of back and forth banter between he and the investigator, Sy begins to tell his story …

As was mentioned earlier, Sy works at a local photo lab and has been developing the Yorkin’s film for years. So much in fact that he knows the wife/mother, Nina (Connie Nielsen), on sight – he even knows their address by heart. After following the development of their family for so long via their family pictures, Sy secretly sees himself as the surrogate uncle of the family. He feels like he’s been with the family forever – from Nina’s marriage to Will (Michael Vartan) to the birth of their now 9-year-old son Jake (Dylan Smith) - and all points in-between. In fact, Sy’s fascination with the Yorkin’s is so severe that over the years, he’s been making himself his own set of prints from the negatives he’s developed for the family and has created a massive collage of them that he has pasted on a large, bare wall in his apartment.

Sy’s fantasy world as “Uncle Sy” is pretty ripe, as he looks at a picture of the family and sees himself immediately transported into the scene – in front of the fireplace with the family at Christmas, on picnics, at birthday parties, and so on. The Yorkin’s seemingly have the perfect life and Sy wants nothing more than to be a part of it. However, apart from the happy moments captured on film, we find that the Yorkin’s home life is anything but perfect. The couple argues about money, Will is an absent father, and so on. The audience is clued in to this before Sy is, but he finds out in a somewhat different manner – actually, through some pictures that Will’s girlfriend brings by the SavMart to have developed. This sudden change in the Yorkin dynamic sends Sy into hysterics when he realizes that there are problems within the “family” and he reacts with an unexpected ferocity and intensity against Will in order to make things right again.

The filmmakers have given Sy a rather non-specific psychosis, as the character is just generally weird and disturbing. There are no sexual overtones between Sy and Nina or Sy and the child and it ultimately boils down to the fact that Sy is simply lonely and he lives his life vicariously through the Yorkin’s and what he sees as their idealistic life. The fact that he’s an interloper and nothing more is something Sy simply can’t stand and finally, his loneliness turns to obsession/fixation/neurosis and he follows through on his mania with disturbing results.

While One Hour Photo is definitely Robin Williams’ show from beginning to end, he’s aided by a very capable supporting cast. Included in that field is the man responsible for the vehicle in the first place, writer/director Mark Romanek. Romanek, like many new directors on the radar today, comes from a music video background where he’s probably best remembered for Nine Inch Nails’ groundbreaking video for “Closer”. Well, Romanek has come a long way and here’s hoping that we see a lot more from him down the road. One Hour Photo is quite an impressive first outing and if this is any indication of what we can expect from him down the road, he can count on me being in line for each of his consecutive features. He expertly manipulates our sympathies throughout the film and throws in some sweet surprises along the way to make it all the more interesting. He puts a new, disturbing twist on the dark undercurrent of the suburban nightmare and shows us that we can be terrorized in broad daylight by those we see as familiar just as easily as we can by some anonymous monster that hides in the shadows.

Gary Cole reprises his “managerial role” from Office Space for the film, but this time, other than the fact that he plays the role straight, the stakes in One Hour Photo are a bit more serious. Michael Vartan and Connie Nielsen play a believable middle-class couple coping with the day-to-day rigors of marriage, as well as a family dealing with the consequences of having a delusional, demented stalker who has quite an unhealthy interest in their family.

However, as I stated earlier, Robin Williams owns and completely inhabits his role as Seymour (See-More? Get it?), or as he’s more affectionately known, “Sy the Photo Guy”. While previous roles against type in Death To Smoochy and Insomnia worked well for him, believe me when I say you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! In a stroke of genius, Williams plays his character as more sad than evil – possessing more repressed rage than he ever displays – and although he does some very evil things, Sy manages to become a sympathetic character in the end, as he seems to have a genuine desire to connect with those around him. This role is a major departure for Williams and he absolutely knocks it out of the park. His comforting smile and smirk have now become disturbing rather than reassuring and in my opinion, this is the best role I have ever seen Williams in. While I’m convinced that Williams will ultimately go back to his “roots” and star in more audience-friendly roles like Patch Adams or Mrs. Doubtfire, after seeing him in One Hour Photo, I’m hoping he continues trying his chops at more sinister roles like the one of Seymour Parrish.

The DVD Grades: Picture A / Audio A- / Bonus B+

Fox brings One Hour Photo to the home viewing market in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in a beautifully rendered anamorphic transfer. The transfer is highly detailed and sharp throughout and I really had to pore over the print to find many mentionable flaws in Fox’s work. Short and simple, One Hour Photo looks amazing.

It’s obvious from the onset that director Mark Romanek and director of photography Jeff Cronenweth (of Fight Club fame) had some definite points they wanted to portray through the filtering and camera work employed in the film and the viewer is presented with three definitive locales – #1, the SavMart’s overly sanitary, brightly-lit, and fluorescent environment which contains austere whites and splashes of intense colors and hues scattered throughout the store; #2, the warm and inviting hues of the Yorkin home – straight out of a modern day Rockwell painting; and #3, the claustrophobic and dark world of Sy’s apartment, complete with out-of-balance colors and hues, as well as despondent and protracted shadows throughout. With all of these divergent and unique locales, with their distinctive hues and tints, Fox had their work cut out for them on the video transfer side of the house and when it was all said and done, the DVD never missed a step and came out looking simply stunning. If you missed the film during its theatrical run and aren’t familiar with the filtering and saturation I’m speaking of, consider yourself in for a real treat with the DVD streets in a couple of weeks and you’re given the chance to check it out for yourself. However, if you saw the film in theaters and are know what I’m talking about, you’re in for a treat as well as Fox’s results will meet, if not surpass, any high expectations you might have had.

The high levels of saturation open the film up for easier flaw inspection and I’ll be darned if Fox doesn’t mask them masterfully. While I did notice a couple of instances of miniscule grain and edge enhancement, anomalies such as print flaws, shimmer, or pixelation are completely absent in the transfer. Ultimately, the colors were all properly saturated and balanced for effect, while black levels were consistently deep, dark, and foreboding. Shadow detail and delineation were right on the money, whiles fleshtones were accurate and natural – often taking on the pronounced hue meant for the scene.

This is absolutely one of the most gorgeous transfers I’ve seen in ages and Fox has put out one of the more stunning transfers in their quite impressive catalog. One Hour Photo is absolutely picture-perfect and fans of the film – and those who appreciate quality transfers – will be ecstatic when they see the fruits of Fox’s labor.

One Hour Photo contains a pretty impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that gets as many points for being subtle as it is does for its few moments of bombastic activity. Right from the get-go, during the opening credits, the industrial NIN-ish score from Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek gives your system quite a nice workout, as it makes great use of all of your distinct channels and gives your LFE a nice pounding with some very aggressive low-end. The score works well for the film throughout and really adds to the sinister atmosphere the film successfully creates through other avenues.

There aren’t really any explosive effects to speak of in the film, although there are multiple instances where the surrounds delicately immerse and engulf the viewer in an all-encompassing soundstage that was expertly authored. The mix for One Hour Photo reminds me a lot of the audio transfer in the Tom Hanks vehicle, Cast Away. If you listen carefully, when you think the mix is silent, you’ll find that there’s actually a lot going on in the rear surrounds that’s quite intricate and subtle – creating a nice ambient atmosphere that is quite dynamic.

The track is perfectly balanced throughout and no one element overpowers another at any time. Dialogue remained firmly anchored in the center channel and was always crisp, clean, and easily understood. Your LFE gets an impressive workout considering the genre and the independent roots of the film and there are quite a few moments of surprisingly bombastic low-end. Dynamics and fidelity are rock solid and ultimately, the audio transfer for One Hour Photo was an impressive one.

Fox also includes an audio transfer in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround dubbed in French and Spanish, subtitles in English, Spanish and French, and English Closed Captions.

While dumbed-down American audiences didn’t embrace One Hour Photo at the box office too much, Fox has still done an incredible job of adding a nice set of supplements to compliment this incredibly creepy film. Each of the extras does a marvelous job of diving deeper in to the film and giving us all a better understand of what the filmmaker’s were trying to convey by bringing One Hour Photo to audiences everywhere.

First and foremost, we find a link for the film’s Commentary with director Mark Romanek and Robin Williams. The two jump right into things and the duo really play off of each other quite well. Williams, while funny in spots, is definitely reserved here and gives the commentary the serious treatment that it deserves. The duo was recorded together for the commentary and dive quite deep into the symbolic and cerebral aspects of the film. Williams shows a deep understanding of the film and his role in it and he and Romanek get in to some really nice and meaningful discussions on how they approached the film and its disturbing subject matter. If you’re interested in learning more about this great film and how it came together, this is a commentary that simply shouldn’t be missed. The pair goes over a plethora of topics and all of them are quite engaging and interesting. Included are some great anecdotes from behind-the-scenes, marvelous discussions on the filtering and production design used to great effect in the film, meticulous discussions on character motivations and plot point dissection, and general conversation on technical hurdles that had to be crossed in order to being the film to life.

Next we find the Cinemax Featurette (13:21). This is pretty much a standard-fare behind-the-scenes look at the film and doesn’t really bring anything new to the table as far as these types of supplements are concerned. However, being such a passionate fan of the film, I enjoyed the extra regardless. Using the standard mix of film clips, behind-the-scenes footage, and interview snippets, we get a bevy of information from the principals including the inspiration and genesis of the script, character motivations and story arcs, what it was like having Robin Williams on the set and how he handled the disturbing role of “Sy the Photo Guy”, and even some discussion on the colors and hues used in the film to create its hyper-realistic/surreal look. Ultimately, this was an interesting supplement, but still remained very promotional in nature. In order to dive deeper into the film, you’d definitely need to rely on the other extras included on the DVD. Interviews in the supplement are included with writer/director Mark Romanek, producers Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler, as well as actors Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, and Eriq La Salle.

Next we find an option for the Charlie Rose Show (35:59) that featured in-depth interviews with both Mark Romanek and Robin Williams, as they appeared on the show together in order to promote the film. Becoming a staple of DVDs and once again proving why Charlie Rose is among the greatest of interviewers, this supplement is nothing more than the unedited segment that appeared on Rose’s show featuring the two principals. There are a multitude of topics covered in the interview and to try and summarize it in a couple of sentences simply wouldn’t do this supplement (or Charlie Rose) justice. Just know that this is a wonderful companion to the film, as well as the commentary, and this segment simply shouldn’t be missed. Rose is in tip-top form here and Romanek and Williams respond to him beautifully.

Following is The Sundance Channel’s brilliant Anatomy of a Scene (27:50) and here, the focus is obviously on One Hour Photo. As usual, the episode focuses on a particular scene from the featured film, in addition to discussions on the casting process (especially Williams’ role), rehearsal methods and exercises, and even the film’s sanitary and fluorescent visual style and the intricate production design and cinematography used to accomplish that feat. After a rather lengthy introduction to the film and its characters from many of the principals involved, the supplement segues into the construction of the story and then on to the deconstruction of the scene where Sy meets Will Yorkin in the flesh for the first time in the aisles of the SavMart. Again, much like the extra preceding it, this is a definite must-see. Interviews are included here with writer/director Mark Romanek, producer Christine Vachon, Robin Williams, editor Jeffrey Ford, cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, producer Pamela Koffler, costume designer Arianne Phillips, producer Stanley Wlodkowski, actor Michael Vartan, and production designer Tom Foden.

Finishing off the disc’s extras are the film’s Theatrical Trailer in widescreen and Dolby Digital 2.0, as well as three TV Spots presented in fullscreen. The TV Spots included are “After Hours”, “Psycho” and “One Hour Photo”. Fox has also included a –PLAY ALL- selection for the spots as well. Also included was a two-minute trailer for the film The Dancer Upstairs

Fox has done a marvelous job of providing viewers a set of impressive extras that really open the film up for closer examination for those of you who want to know more. There’s not much wasted space across any of the extras and fans of the film should be delighted with the selection of supplements that Fox has provided.

If my comments up to this point haven’t clued you into my feelings on this film and DVD, I don’t know what else I can do. Simply put, One Hour Photo comes highly recommended on all fronts – this is a great, great film and Fox has given us a DVD to match.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.041 Stars Number of Votes: 73
4 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.