One Hour Photo
Guest Opinion by Gord Buck
This Remembrance Day long weekend all of my roomates were either out-of-town or whooping it up and getting drunk every night (lousy undergrads with their November reading break…). I was bored Monday night and needed to get out of the house and away from studying, so I called up Manmeet and off we went to the Roxy to see One Hour Photo. Shannon begged off, no doubt because she was busy with some sort of crazy cultish activities and/or renaissance dance.
Anyways, the movie. If I could sum it up in a word, I would say predictable. That’s not to imply that it was horrible, another cookie-cutter Hollywood creation. Far from it. I think it is a very well-made movie. It’s just that basically the entire plot was revealed in the first two minutes. Hell, the entire plot was revealed in the previews. I mean we know Robin Williams is this totally creeper stalker guy who obsesses over the Yorkins - a family whose photos he processes. And we can connect the dots and figure out that he’s either going to go on a murderous rampage or stalk them or whatever…we know something bad is going to go down.
What makes this an above-average movie is definitely not the plot, or even the characters really. Robin Williams does an excellent job playing the slightly-off, slightly-creepy, middle-aged, unmarried career photo tech Sy. It’s maybe a bit too good of a job really, since his character is almost a caricature of a child molester. On the other hand, he manages to inject a real sense of loneliness into the character that makes him sympathetic. The ‘look’ of the film adds to this sense of loneliness and isolation - the sterile, impersonal and vast ‘Save-Mart’ where Sy works; his plain, flourescent-lit apartment; his base model white subcompact. Contrasted with the warmer, wood and leather look of the home of the family he’s stalking. Oddly enough, the only one who clues into Sy’s sad and lonely existence is 9-year-old Jake Yorkin.
There is a tiny bit of a plot twist to keep us on our toes, but it doesn’t detract much from the predictable overall story arc. The Yorkins are pretty much the epitome modern American upper-middle-class family - nice house in an upscale suburb, luxury SUV, designer clothes, perfect bodies and teeth, etc etc etc. At least on the outside. As the voice-over of Sy tells us, people only take pictures of the good times. If you looked at an album, you’d think we all lived these perfect, blissful, constantly happy lives.
And that’s the interesting part of the movie that tends to get lost somehow. The symbolism of photography, helped along by little monologues from Sy at appropriate moments, is very important to the film, and probably its most clever aspect, but seems to get submerged. I think if I were a film studies major (and therefore looking forward to a great career as a lifer at Starbucks or the Gap) I would probably see Sy as a modern critical theorist, trying to rip off the thin veneer of modern life and expose the misery underneath…blah blah blah Noam Chomsky yadda yadda post-modern expressionism blah blah blah Lynchian undertones yak yak yak alienation from society (nonsense) (B.S.) transcending gender models etc etc etc. Anyways, that’s what I’d say if I were a film studies major.
Anyways, the final word? Good, not great. Well-made, but predictable. At this point, I’d wait for it to come out on video.