When a comedic actor ventures into drama the results tend towards the unpredictable; for Robin Williams it's been a bumpy road, but an undeniably interesting one with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's Good Will Hunting, the dramedy Patch Adams, the quasi-spiritual What Dreams May Come, and Bobcat Goldthwait's sentimentally cynical World's Greatest Dad (among quite a few others). He's played roles that run the gamut, but if you had to pin down the creepiest character he's ever undertaken, it's hard to argue with his portrayal of the emotionally scarred Seymour Parrish in the otherwise forgettable One Hour Photo. A few tremendous leaps of logic (sometimes called plotholes) and a sloppy attempt at explaining away Parrish's damaged mind, ultimately sabotage Romanek's offbeat thriller, but not before it manages to creep out the audience with how convincingly Williams plays the kindly stranger you wouldn't think about but who just might be stalking your family.
Back in the era before digital cameras, we used to take pictures with cameras that used this stuff called "film", and if we ever wanted to see the pictures we took, we had to take them to get developed. Developing our photos were people like Seymour Parrish (Williams), who takes great pride in his career as a photo technician at the local department store, and over the years has acquired a fondness for the family of Nina (Connie Nielsen) and Will Yorkin (Michael Vartan) whose photos he's developed since the birth of their son Jakob (Dylan Smith). To call it a fondness, however, is an understatement, as he's kept doubles of every photo they've ever brought to him and has constructed a collage of their happiest moments on his apartment's wall. As Seymour's attempts to insert himself into the Yorkins' lives, both photographically and physically, an unfortunate choice by Will Yorkin spurs Seymour to teach him a lesson by going to extremes.
The film's ending goes off the rails a bit in a plan by Seymour that stems from a really obscure connection and once put into motion makes no sense and seems to have no possible outcome that would actually give him what he wants. Up until that point though, Romanek constructs enough really odd and uncomfortable moments that make Williams's performance memorable and unsettling. One Hour Photo is the kind of feature you pluck off your shelf every few years when you want to remind yourself that Williams isn't just the comedian spokesperson for ADHD or an inspiring, emotionally open presence of celebrated dramas. Of course, there are films that do that better, but rarely is Williams's performance as strange as it is here.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
There are quite a few extras on the disc and a lot of them are pretty interesting, such as the cast rehearsal, and featurettes on the cinematography, the creation of Sy's nightmares, and a general production piece. After that, an audio commentary by Director Romanek and Williams, trailers, TV spots, posters, and additional pieces on the locations of the film, the opening title sequence. and a breakdown of a scene filmed for Sundance round out the disc.
"One Hour Photo" is on sale May 7, 2013 and is rated R. Drama. Written and directed by Mark Romanek. Starring Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Robin Williams.