Its not a terribly original premise. Lonely guy longs for the warmth and comfort of a family and becomes attached to what he considers to be the ideal set up. Still, obsession can be tantalizing fodder for film when handled correctly, which in the case of ONE HOUR PHOTO, its not. It has all the excitement, surprises and thrills of watching ice cream melt. Vanilla ice cream. On a day that isn’t especially warm. Ooooh, will the first bit dribble to the right or to the left?
Here we have Sy, perhaps an ironic take on the sighs of malaise with which he lives his sterile, chainstore life. Played by Robin Williams, who is now in his anti-warm-and-fuzzy phase, he leads a lonely life without friends or family in a big empty apartment. In decades of developing photos, though, hes become attached to a young family that seems to have it allgood looks, money, a great relationship and a kid that is just about as cute as a bugs ear as they say in the south. Naturally, in a plot twist as old as the cuneiform tablets of Babylon, this family is anything but happy. Dad cheats, Mom has self-esteem issues, and the kid will probably be spending his adulthood on a therapist’s couch.
Director Mark Romanek aided and abetted by cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth does an effective job of conveying the sterility of Williams’ life and of that of the family he so longs to be a part of. If only the visuals were all. The predictable plot (will anyone be surprised that Sy has plastered the walls of his apartment with photos of his dream family?) required more nuanced performances instead of the broad strokes on display here. Sy, who should come across as sweet in order to garner our support, comes across as creepy, in the way parents warn their kids about. I cant entirely fault Williams misguided effort. He is totally sincere as a lonely guy obsessed with what he sees as the perfect family. By the end, you do kind of feel sorry for him the way he carries that little boy lost look in eyes as reality comes crashing down around him. And yet, I felt much more sorry for myself for having to sit through this and even moreso for people who might actually make the mistake of paying money for the experience rather than just their time and the attendant headache as I did.