Sy Parrish is the perfectionist head technician for a supermarket instant photo developer. But does his extra pride in the photographs of the picture-perfect Yorkin family and his clandestine meetings with young Jake betray a dark side?
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.
Even when the material is a touch too literal, Williams' measured performance (yes, measured!) keeps enough emotion in check (yes, in check!) to leave an element of doubt in play. Sadly, anyone who has ever seen a lonely weirdo movie will still know exactly where this above average thriller is heading.
It had taken 15 years ifor writer-director Mark Romanek to follow up his debut movie, the 1986 cult fave, Static. An acclaimed video director, Romanek must have his reasons for the procrastination, but while this genre movie lacks the off-beat brilliance of Static, there's more than enough here to suggest that he should stick at this feature-making lark.
In particular, Romanek shows an immediate mastery of the basics of the stalker genre and cranks up a good atmosphere early on. He also manufactures a genuinely tense climax. One Hour Photo does, however, have a tendency to labour the point slightly, and fantasy sequences betray the fact that Romanek the writer has not given Romanek the director quite enough to work with.
This would not be so fatal a flaw if the narrative sprang a genuine surprise, but this is a suspense thriller on rails, linear when it should be elusive, predictable when it should keep you guessing. Williams, however, keeps the whole thing watchable. Romanek never once doubts the audience's intelligence. As much as you want to keep watching to see what develops, part of you wants to look away from images that will stay with you long after the film has run out.
Williams is revelatory in a solid genre picture that opens strongly but fails to quicken the pace.