One Hour Photo
***.5 GM
Starring: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Gary Cole, Dylan Smith, Erin Daniels, Clark Gregg, Eriq La Salle


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See, Hollywood, you can do creepy and scary without gory and shitty. Pay attention!

We've got a story as simple as this: Sy Parrish, a lonely, quiet and somewhat creepy man that works at the supermarket photolab, becomes far too attached to one of his regular customer families, so much so that when he discovers their life isn't nearly as perfect as he needs it to be for his little fantasy of being a part of it, his humble little world is rattled and shaken to its core, and he finds himself going to extremes as a result of his sudden instability. Well, maybe it doesn't sound so simple when described, but it sure feels like it when watched, and that's a good thing.

There's no sense of a "when is he gonna get to the murderin' already?" sort of stalker-crap-horror vibe to this film, which is great for a thriller like this. "Thriller" might not even be the right word for it. "Suspense" works, because we get the feeling that we're watching a fragile man slowly start to crack, and we don't want to see that at all, because deep down, despite his unnerving photo-collection habit and depressingly sterilized solitary existence, we can see a man that just wants to be happy, loved and a part of something, yet feels unable to do it. This sort of thing can lead a guy to working at a Sav-Mart photo lab for 20 years. This fits in with the general theme of Todd Solondz' Happiness, by the way, of "even the creepy just want to be happy," and it does it with much less stomach-turning.

Robin Williams plays against type and does it effectively, and considerably altering his standard look really helps him melt into this new character. It's essentially a character study about a solitary man trying to reach out and form an emotional connection he's not equipped to make, and Williams portrays this with a touching hopelessness, although his reputation creates a significant anticipation of when we're going to see him burst into his manic persona for some reason or other. Knowing that the veneer will completely crack and still baiting one's breath for it marks a performance well-played.

Gary Cole may be forced to play dickish bosses forever now. It's a job he does admirably, though.

This is a quiet film, full of long shots of silent angst and sadness. The score, however, is always reminding you to be aware of creepiness afoot, which is a bit of a bother. Overall, it works, though, especially with the final scene creating more sympathy than fear for the guy. He managed to make it this far in life without mentally collapsing, and you can't help but feel bad that he couldn't hold up for a few decades more.

Let's all send Sy some good thoughts, and maybe he won't be so sad.

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