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One Hour Photo

For years I've happily brought my film to various photo-marts across the country to get my film developed. For some reason, it never really occurred to me that eyes other than mine were seeing all of my slightly devious, certainly naughty, self-portraits.

Enter One Hour Photo.

Robin Williams stars as a creepy photo guy named Sy. Sy works at the Sav-Mart One Hour Photo Lab in Anytown, USA. He smiles at you, serves you with respect, remembers your name, develops your film. And for one lucky family, he becomes a little obsessed.

As the happy family brings in their pictures over the years, we slowly learn that Sy has been collecting their photos, and that he's grown quite fond of the family from afar. But like all stalkers, eventually he has to screw everything up by trying to get personal. Sad, really. If he just kept his distance and remained obsessed behind closed doors, all the bad stuff that happens could be avoided.

The film wants to be slow, creepy, uneasy and artistic. It certainly succeeds in being slow. It does a decent job at uneasy. You could make a case for slightly creepy at times. However, it isn't so much artistic as sloppy.

There are quite a lot of little plot holes. And it's not that complicated of a movie, so there really shouldn't be any. The very first line out of the little boy's mouth is, itself, slightly misleading unless you're really, really paying attention and are ready to cut the filmmakers some slack. I'm neither, so for me, it's just a bad way to start the film.

Then there are sub plots that seem like they should be more than they are, moments that don't exactly work the way you think they're supposed to work, and when all is said and done, you walk out of the theater thinking you've just watched a very long, well-shot, student film.

Part of the problem is Robin Williams himself. Don't get me wrong, he's really, really good in this part. Mr. Williams is a fine actor, and he brings such a strong sense of depth and longing to Sy that you find yourself almost rooting for this sick, twisted, deranged, photo clerk. But that's the problem. He's too good. Robin brings so much to the charter, that you expect Sy to be smarter, you think everything he's doing has a purpose, you think he's one step ahead of everyone. The sad fact is, he's not. And having him portrayed by such a known and talented actor injures the spirit of the film. An unknown, not as polished, not as good an actor, would have made for a better movie.

Next time they should just hire me. I can be disturbing and obsessive with the best of them.

There's a lot of ambiguity in the film. The husband and wife don't exactly get a resolution at the end; you really have little idea how everything's going to end up. Sy enters their lives, stirs things up and goes away, but the ramifications of his actions are left out of the picture.

The movie goes out of its way to tell us how weird Sy is. Look at him- he's a freak. He could be in your own neighborhood right now. Freaky, freaky, freaky. It's almost as if the director was more interested in the character study than the story. We don't really even start the film at the beginning. It's a snap shot of time, but not the complete tale.

Maybe he's looking to make a sequel. Or prequel. Or both.

Oh, before I forget, aside from Robin and the family, the ever-typecast Gary Cole as Sy's boss, Bill, turns in a fine performance. Mmmmm. Yeah.

One wonders, watching this film, if there aren't a whole lot more Sys out there. One wonders if they keep copies of all of our most private shots. Do they have a book in the back, filled with the amateur porn, the truly freakish, and the simply odd?

It's enough to make a guy go digital.

I'm giving One Hour Photo 2 1/2 Babylons. A fine entry in Robin Williams' trilogy of evil, but ultimately disposable.

Editor's Note:

I let MS Word suggest all the grammatical edits in this review, and I accepted all of them. Maybe I should update my resume.

One Hour Photo
Rated: R
Directed By: Mark Romanek
Starring: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Dylan Smith, Gary Cole, Eric La Salle and some lovely 4 x 6 shots of the beach.

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