One Hour Photo  (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Talk about a man who needed to develop some self-awareness.

Twenty five years ago, when he was the hottest comic in the business and the funniest white man in the world, Robin Williams was really funny - but, well, also really creepy. In his subsequent TV and movie career, playing in sentimental and/or funny roles, people have always noticed that he was creepy. Look at his scrunched-up face and his misshapen hairy body. Look at his penguin walk. Listen to that phony reassuring voice, the voice of a playground pervert trying to convince the children to trust him.

Now, finally, after a quarter of a century in show business, Williams at last figured out what everyone else knew long ago, that he had a knack for "creepy". He is playing disturbed roles.

Needless to say, he's good at it. I think he was terrific in three films this year. In Insomnia, he played the classic calculating, unrepentant serial killer. In One Hour Photo, he formed the model of a quiet, modest, desperate, retail worker about to go postal. In Death to Smoochy, as a frenetic wacko TV kiddie show host, he played the comical side of evil, cussing up a storm in front of children on live TV, taking payola from mobsters, bullying parents, despising children, and planning various acts of cruel revenge on the loveable schmuck who took his show away.


Erin Daniels shows all of her body, a bit at a time. her pubic hair is seen when her robe opens. Her breasts are seen as Williams photographs her having sex. Her buns are seen as Williams instructs her to perform oral sex on Vartan.

Michael Vartan shows his butt once, and his penis in two separate quick flashes.

Yup, Williams figured out where he should have been all along. First he wanted to be Jonny Winters 2 - the screwball comic. Then he wanted to be Maurice Chevalier 2 - the wise, compassionate, gentle-hearted older man. Finally he landed on the bonus square  - he's actually Tony Perkins 2, the Norman Bates of his generation, the soft-spoken, apparently gentle man ready to erupt in a paroxysm of violence or perversion.

In this particular film, One Hour Photo, he has an especially rich breeding ground for psychotic behavior. The premise is excellent. Think about it. Except for your doctors and a few other highly trained professionals with oaths of confidence, who is the one person with the greatest access to your secrets? How about the guy who develops your photos? Robin plays the perfectionistic, generous head of a SavMart photo development department. He has watched a young family grow for years, and has taken a special interest in them. Since he is a lonely man, he develops an unhealthy obsession with them as a surrogate for the family he doesn't have. One of the walls of his sparse apartment is decorated with copies of their family photos. His kindly demeanor and his identification with them is filled with a touch of jealousy toward the husband as well, because the guy has everything Robin himself would like to have.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Writer/director/actor commentary

  • Robin Williams on "The Charlie Rose Show"

  • Cinemax featurette

  • Sundance channel's "Anatomy of a Scene"

  • Widescreen anamorphic format

One day, Williams discovers through his job that "his" family - he's Uncle Sy - has a major problem. The husband is cheating on his wife.

Uncle Sy snaps. 

What will he do with his godlike power over the family? Will he slip pictures of the husband and the mistress to the wife by "mistake"? Or will he intervene in even more drastic ways? That's the premise of this atmospheric thriller with "creepy" written all over it, and featuring the new king of the creeps.

King Walken is dead. King Malkovich is dead. Long life King Robin.


One Hour Photo (2002)  is the best Robin Williams vehicle in a long time. Williams plays a lonely single man who has worked in the one hour photo department of Sav*Mart, a discount department store, for ten years. He prides himself on his work, and has no other life, but lives vicariously through his customers and their pictures. He is especially attached to one family. While he is clearly disturbed, he is functional until two things happen. (1) He discovers that the husband of the family he dotes on is cheating from some pictures the other woman (Erin Daniels) drops off, and (2) he is fired. With nothing to lose, and a deep sense of wrong on the part of the man who has everything he himself wants and is cheating anyway, he plots a revenge/wake-up call.

Williams nailed the role. The film was a first effort from writer/director Mark Romanek, and is one of the better freshman efforts I have seen. Lighting and color palette were used to show the SavMart as sort of a heavenly white cathedral, rich earth tones were used for the family, and every scene with Williams was somewhat drab and off-color. The music was appropriately creepy.

It has a fresh premise, is well made, and really held my interest. It was also totally believable. 

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 3/4, BBC 4/5, Apollo 82/100, 2/5. ('s score was an exception)

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: a profitable hit on a small scale. $30 million domestic gross in 1300 theaters, on a budget in the $10 million range.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "C+. Close to a B, maybe it is a B. Very, very strong genre film. Consistent atmosphere, with more than a touch of visual and spoken poetry to it." Tuna says, "The genre is thriller, but it is not a typical one, and has broad appeal outside of the genre, and is hence a B."

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