In 2002 the celebrated indie film movement was coming to an end. After a pretty remarkable run that lasted about a decade, these smaller-budgeted, highly original personal films driven by a single vision were about to lapse into self-parody (from which they still haven’t returned). But not before writer/director Mark Romanek’s “One Hour Photo” extended that winning streak.
In the most disciplined performance of his long and varied career, Robin Williams plays “Sy the Photo Guy,” one of those nebbish nobodies you don’t want to mess with. Beneath the glasses, cheap haircut and meek demeanor, something dark roils within Sy. It is not his loneliness or inability to connect with others that is so disturbing, it is how such a thing will ultimately manifest itself.
For quite a few years, Sy manages to keep the lid on. By day he works behind the photo counter of a suburban SavMart (an obvious stand-in for Walmart). By night, though, Sy balms his loneliness with a wall covered in every photo he has ever developed for the Yorkin family.
Nina (Connie Nielsen) and Will (Michael Vartan) seem to be living the American dream with their young son Jakcob (Dylan Smith) in a home right out of a magazine. And all Sy apparently wants from them is to be part of the family.
“One Hour Photo” is brilliantly shot and edited down to a lean, mean 96 minutes. The plotting is a machine of efficiency. The screw of suspense is tightened with such precision throughout that by the time the climax hits you hardly realize you’re not breathing. The climax is also first-rate — one of those unexpected endings that is the opposite of contrived.
It is Williams’s performance, though, that carries the film. He is in almost every scene and completely loses himself in a role he makes disturbingly believable. Also filling things out are Gary Cole, who is perfectly cast as Sy’s antagonistic boss, and our own Nick Searcy, who proves why he will always have work in just one scene.
The Bluray print is, as you would expect, a thing of beauty. But also included are the kind of extras fans of the film can relish. On top of feature-length commentary from Romanek and Williams, there is a ton of behind-the scenes stuff that takes you through the process of how the film was made, marketed, and ultimately triumphed both critically and commercially. The first six listed below are all new:
- Cast Rehearsals
- Lensing One Hour Photo
- Main Title Test
- Sy’s Nightmare Elements
- Poster Explorations
- Commentary by Mark Romanek and Robin Williams
- The Charlie Rose Show
- Sundance: Anatomy of a Scene
- Cinemax Featurette
- Trailer and TV Spots
Great movie. Great extras. Great performances.
The indie-film movement might have devolved into narcissistic nihilism and left-wingery disguised “edge,” but it wasn’t always like that — which is why the movie gods invented home video.
“One Hour Photo” is available at Amazon.com.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC