One Hour Photo (2002): ***½
Directed by Mark Romanek
This is the second movie out this summer starring Robin Williams as a creepy badguy, the first being Insomnia. This performance is somehow even more restrained and more creepy and just more... wrong.
Williams is Sy Parrish, the photo technician who takes a bit too much of an interest in one of the families (the Yorkins) that regularly drops its photos off at his station. Since he has no family or friends of his own, he makes an extra set of the photos for himself and plasters them up on the wall of his apartment, pretending as if he is a part of the family. It's just... wrong.
This in itself wouldn't be quite so bad, but his behavior becomes increasingly more... wrong. He gets a little too friendly with the son, Jakob. When Sy sees the father, Will, in the store, and tells him that he's a lucky man, and that he has a nice house, it's just... wrong. You somehow instinctively feel that unspoken boundaries are being crossed.
Then, Sy shows up suddenly at Jakob's soccer practice at the park and walks him halfway back home. In a rediculously frightening sequence, when they are all alone in the park in a secluded, shaded area, Sy innocently bends down and ties Jakob's shoe. I honestly don't know how the director fimled this sequence so well, because at no point does Sy do anything creepy or suspicious, and yet the entire audience gasped and several people mutterd to Jakob to just run. It was so... wrong.
And that's where the beauty of this film lies. Until the final seqeunce, Sy never technically does anything wrong directly to the Yorkins themselves. They don't know that he's crossed so many boundaries. They just think he's "Sy the Photo Guy." But somehow, with Williams's performance, the excellent direction by Romanek, the really good musical score by Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek, and especially the costume design by Arianne Phillips (look at Sy's pants! And those shoes! Creepy!!), the movie just becomes a total creep-out, bugs-under-your-skin wiggins fest. And yet, at the same time as we were being wigged out by Sy, we also couldn't help but laugh out loud a whole lot at just how wrong his behavior was, making the film almost like the blackest of black comedies, becasue there aren't really any comedy "jokes" in it.
Eventually, of course, there is a crisis moment that pushes Sy over the edge from creepy photo guy to active threat to the Yorkins. I thought this final sequence could have gone a lot further. Sy's "plan" is very small (but horribly, horribly disturbing) and poorly thought out, and the movie ends rather quickly. It never really builds into a truly heart-pounding climax. But in a way that's good, because it's keeping with Sy's character.
In the end, there is a revelation about how Sy became the way he is that is very dark, but also makes a whole lot of sense. It is a credit to Williams that he is, weirdly, somehow able to keep Sy sympathetic, no matter how wrong his behavior gets.
Oh! And this film has one of the best nighmares I've seen in a film in ages and ages. It's only like ten seconds long, but the ENTIRE audience jumped, and probably half of them actually screamed out loud. Very disturbing.
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