[MOVIE REVIEW]Williams' photo guy develops into a menace

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[MOVIE REVIEW]Williams' photo guy develops into a menace

"No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget," says Sy the Photo Guy early in "One Hour Photo," the new thriller starring Robin Williams.

The movie is told as a flashback by Seymour Parrish, a 20-year veteran of a mall photo lab. The police have Sy in custody for "what he did to those people," and Sy is more than happy to relate all that happened.

Despite having what most people would consider a trivial job, Sy takes great pride in his work. He fine-tunes the developing machine to make sure the colors are as rich and accurate as possible. He knows all his regular customers and their lives.

Sy's favorite customer is Nina Yorkin (Connie Nielsen), a beautiful young woman with an 11-year-old boy, an architect husband and a yuppie dream life. But while the surface of her life may be perfect, the details are far from great, and her husband's workaholic ways have the marriage on the rocks.

Sy, however, dreams of being part of the Yorkin family. He tells people that Nina's son is his nephew and keeps copies of all their family photos. All of them. Which he arranges into a really creepy wall collage.

Eventually, Sy's devotion becomes his undoing. His attempts to ingratiate himself with the Yorkins are spotted by his grouchy boss, and eventually lead to Sy losing his job.

Without that job, Sy has no way to stay in contact with the Yorkins, to see their pictures and be a part of their lives (if only in his mind).

Pushed to the breaking point, Sy decides that it's time to take action. Then a surprise discovery and a lucky guess create an avenue for him to pursue the Yorkins. When his early attempts at manipulating the family go unnoticed, he ratchets up his efforts even further.

Because the movie is told from Seymour's point of view, it shouldn't have all the family scenes that Seymour could never have seen. But perhaps they are part of his ceaseless imagination, what he imagines transpired between photo shop visits.

This is the first feature film by Mark Romanek, who cut his teeth making music videos for Madonna and Nine Inch Nails. As the writer and director, Mr. Romanek keeps the camera tricks to a minimum, but uses that background to display a strong eye for colors and composition. The washed out whiteness of the mall starkly shows the emptiness in Sy's life, especially when contrasted with the bright colors of his imagination.

Robin Williams gives a great, understated performance. But the other people in the film are poorly written and acted. It's as if Mr. Romanek put so much effort into Sy that he forgot about the rest of the movie.

The film does make an attempt to be smarter and more humane than you'd expect with this sort of story, but to mixed effect.

by Mark Russell

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