8 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, September 16, 2002
Romanek extracts chilling performance from Williams in 'Photo'
By Luke Smith
Daily Arts Editor
Inside the washed-out Savmart, Seymour "Sy" Par-
rish has taken the development of high quality, snappy
photos in an hour of less to an exact science. The pic-
tures he gives you will be crisp, even if they aren't the
size you asked for. He greets your children with an
unnerving predatory smile and offers them free cameras
when it's their birthdays. At first glance, Sy the photo
guy is the perfect employee: Hard-working, devoted to
the understanding of his customers, he even goes as far
as memorizing his favorite customers' addresses.
Beneath Sy's bleached, broken appearance and care-
fully calculating demeanor lies an individual with a
dark obsession. A giant wall of pictures hangs on the
wall in his apartment, which is colored in flattened,
bleak colors, much like Parrish's existence. The pictures
most notably the caustic video for "Closer." Romanek
carefully makes "One Hour Photo" a collection of
snapshots, brought together through excellent art
direction and use of color.
The visual contrasts between Sy Parrish and the
Yorkins is evident in the deep devotion to set construc-
tion. Parrish's home is empty and antiseptic. Aside
from his wall of Yorkin, the home feels more like a
hospital waiting room than it does an apartment. The
interior is fabulously colored in whites and greys, flat-
tened and empty.
Masterfully foiling Parrish's apartment is the lavish,
home of the Yorkins. The barren walls of Sy's apart-
ments are countered are countered by walls chocked
full of pictures, trinkets and gadgets. The colors are
alive in the Yorkin household as opposed to the dead
coloring of Parrish's life. The Yorkins are the picture
of the life that Sy Parrish wants and can't have.
on the wall are meticulously cataloged and
document his favorite customers, the
Yorkins. Sy Parrish lives on the periphery
of their upper-middle class existence, and
he lives there alone.
Robin Williams' depiction of the neu-
rotic Sy Parrish is disarming. Williams'
voice-overs offer haunting fragments like
"according to the Oxford English diction-
ary snapshot was originally a hunting
At State Th
Parrish's desperate attempts to be a
Yorkin extend as far as offering Jakob a
camera on his birthday. He superficially
attempts to ingrain himself into the Yorkin
household, whether it be through watch-
)UR ing Jakob's baseball practice, or reading
p the same book as Nina. In his fantasy
world, he sits in the perfect Yorkin home,
eater watching television, he eats their food,
ight drinks their beer, uses their restroom -
he is Uncle Sy Parrish.
When Sy discovers (through the pictures he devel-
term." Williams is guided deep into the
obsessively dark Sy Parrish, never breaking character.
Sy Parrish's subjects and prey, the Yorkins, live a
very normal life. Nina Yorkin (Connie Nielsen, "Glad-
iator") plays the part of the soccer-mom perfectly. She
is well-kept and well-maintained, just like the home
she keeps. Her husband Will, (Michael Vartan, TV's
"Alias") works all of the time, generating income for
his family's comfortable life. Their son, Jakob (Dylan
Smith) is as cute as he is innocent - Jakob sad early
in the film, wonders if Sy the photo guy has friends
and people who love him.
Mark Romanek, both penned and directed "One
Hour Photo" a different genre altogether than his pre-
vious body of work. Before "One Hour Photo," Mark
Romanek had primarily been a music video director,
handling clips for Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails,
ops) that the Yorkin family isn't as perfect as he
believes, he is crushed. The blow he feels damages
him as much or more so than the family itself. The
pedestal Parrish put the Yorkins on is shattered in a
handful of photos.
After this dramatic realization, Parrish comes
undone and takes matters into his own hands. He is
infuriated that his ideal family has been broken, and
here the fragility of Williams' Parrish, much alluded to
throughout the film's ice-cold voice-work, boils over.
Romanek's "One Hour Photo" is a beautiful piece of
film. It is edited masterfully, the coloring and visuals
appropriately lie at the center of this, a movie essen-
tially about images. However, it is unfortunate that
Romanek's writing isn't as rock-steady as the rest of
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
A dejected Robin Williams.
During film's climax, (the better part of the last
half-hour) Romanek's pacing is masterful, and
enhanced by Robin Williams' ability to be truly fright-
ening, in far more than a creepy Savmart kind-of-way.
This climactic build of frenzied intensity is under-
mined completely by the film's transformation of Sy
Parrish from a neurotically obsessive individual into
someone with a psychosis. Through his writing,
Romanek failed to realize that the scariest part about
Parrish was his unfettering normality. The establish-
ment of Parrish's psychosis in the film's final scene
detracts from much of the created suspense, offering
an all-too-easy answer to Parrish's fragile condition.
"One Hour Photo" is similar to Shyamalan's "Signs"
in their respective conclusions, because both films
take the easy way out, neatly packaging their endings
so viewers can leave.the theater feeling closure. With a
mainstream major motion picture like "Signs" this end
is to be expected, but "One Hour Photo," being an
independent film showing in very few theaters, and
shouldn't feel the need to wrap itself up so tightly, or
concisely. The intensity that Romanek built so well
for 90 minutes is destroyed in the final scene.
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Continued from Page 5A
The principle characters come to rep-
resent every facet of the life in this part
of the city: The youth, the elderly, the
felon, the college student, the foreigner
from West Africa and the other "for-
eigner" - the white man. In other
words, this barbershop is a virtual melt-
ing pot of conflict and personality.
In a film that chooses to focus on a
single location, it becomes very impor-
tant that the dialogue be quite strong
and retain the audience's interest. This
film succeeds in doing this and then
goes a step further. Social commentary
and serious African-American issues are
weaved throughout the casual and hilari-
ous banter of these men. The dialogue in
this film is brilliant, and all of the actors
give amazing performances that will
make you laugh and ponder.
The plot of the film is a bit pre-
dictable. However, this is not the
primary focus of this film. The
film's focus is on relationships.
Ice Cube delivers his best perform-
ance since his work in "Friday." Second
to Cube is Cedric Kyles a.k.a. Cedric the
Entertainer, who plays the aged charac-
ter Eddie. I cannot stress enough how
hilarious Eddie is in this film. The list
of newcomers to the screen runs deep,
but they certainly don't show any signs
"Barbershop" is unexpectedly
unique and special. This film seemed
to come out of nowhere, but it is defi-
nitely going somewhere.
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