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ONE HOUR PHOTO, 2002
Starring: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Gary Cole, Dylan Smith, Erin Daniels
Seymour Parrish, a lonely employee at a one-hour photo lab, become obsessed with an ‘ideal’, young suburban family.
13 September 2002 (Canada)
Robin William’s is an Oscar winner. No doubt should be held against his talent. However, 2002 was a very interesting year for Williams that further tested his skill as an actor. In this year, audience’s saw him starring in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Insomnia’ and in Mark Romanek’s ‘One Hour Photo’; films that Williams shines. Particularly the latter where Williams plays Seymour Parrish, a disillusioned, unhinged and obsessive loner (a distant stretch from his inoffensive display as Mrs. Doubtfire, non?)
We, the audience, are well aware of how Seymour Parrish’s story ends; the film opens with Parrish in custody in relation to a crime we are yet unsure of. What is clear is that Parrish is in trouble. What follows this scene is the re-telling of Parrish’s doomed tale.
As mentioned, Robin Williams plays Seymour Parrish, an employee working at a one-hour photo lab – a character that initially seems harmless, albeit with a somewhat askew personality – whose personality is slowly unveiled to be something much more sinister as he is revealed to be completely obsessed with a young family (who often develop their many photographs at Parrish’s place of work) that he considers to be “the perfect family”; husband and wife Will and Nina Yorkin (Michael Vartan and Connie Nielsen) and their young son Jakob (Dylan Smith). Parrish sees this family as the most enviable and perfect family that has ever existed, the family that has everything they need to lead the most fulfilling and happiest life possible (a conclusion made by hours upon hours of studying the ‘happy’ and ‘loving’ photographs brought to Parrish to develop). His affection is greatly misplaced. This exposure acts as a catalyst to further fuel an unhealthy and dangerous obsessed that Parrish holds; how dangerous this obsession of his is revealed gradually.
The family live is a rosy, rich coloured world. This family at times seems almost un-relatable because of how trouble-free their lives are (accompanied by equally ungrounded acting). By contrast, Seymour’s world is far less warm. He is surrounded by this image of overwhelming white; He works in a very white environment, the clothes he wears are white, his home is white. The colour white follows Parrish and his lonely existence wherever he goes, it seems. This notion of overexposure/white has interesting connotations running throughout the film (what is interesting to note is the family’s ‘perfect’ image turns out to be as artificial as the Yorkin photographs themselves as it is revealed that there is a rift between Will and Nina. All this goes past Parrish as he only believes what is being presented to him). There is a certain irony that these pictures, exposed for Parrish free to interpret, are anything but honest and open – instead disguising the truth and it is Parrish’s dark world that is far more honest.
Parrish’s obsession loses him his job and his world slowly falls apart after learning of Will’s affair with another woman. This is the moment the ‘straw broke the camel’s back’, so-to-speak, and Parrish ‘sees the red light’ (accompanied with a not-so-subtle sequence demonstrating this). He wants Will to suffer for his betrayal towards ‘the perfect family’ as he searches for Will, and his new fling, to teach him a lesson for throwing everything away – with the police hot on his trail.
Mark Romanek wrote and directed this film, and it has to be said that both his writing and directing style are both of a decent enough standard. The film is made up of many unsettling scenes, many of which are awkward to watch (a credit to Williams for sure, as all the scenes in question involve Williams). This film is also a very nice film to look at with some interesting compositions and many visually engaging shots. The film’s narrative is, at times, as unhinged as the central character but it’s inviting and playful. The only problem this reviewer has with the film lies with some of the symbolism; there is no subtlety in the film and all metaphors are there in plain sight for all to see. It happens often in the film that it seems almost patronising in a way and I’m sure the film thinks it’s far smarter than it is.
It is fair to say whilst One Hour Photo is a very decent film, with an engaging story that’ll keep you gripped throughout the film’s 90 minute running time. The biggest appeal, by far, is Robin Williams and his film-stealing performance. He really does get under the skin of the character and delivers a wonderfully bittersweet and dangerous character. Williams deserves full kudos, as he is certainly the glue that holds this film together.
ONE HOUR PHOTO