One Hour Photo
What to do while watching: Visit with the folks
What to eat while watching: Cheetos, Doritos, Tostitos and/or Fritos.
Warson Goody and Mama Goody, my illustrious parents, were in town last weekend for video night. We took a walk through the neighborhood to First Choice Video and DVD and found two films to watch. One Hour Photo stars Robin Williams in a decidedly uncharming--therefore uncharacteristic--role. In another era, the part might have gone to Peter Lorre.
Williams plays Sy the photo guy. He's the over-friendly, wonky clerk at the local pharmacy photo desk. He's deeply into his work since it is the only focal point of his existence. Not having a family or a girlfriend or even a pet, he takes great care in making photo developing a craft. If the machine is slightly out of register, he calls in the maintenance guy, much to that man's chagrin.
Training a newcomer to the department, Sy is meticulous, but his carefulness has its limits because Sy is easily distracted by one particular customer family. Nina Yorkin, played by cute Connie Nielsen, and her son Jake (Dylan Smith) come to develop their film with Sy, and over the years, Sy has grown to know and love Yorkins, including daddy Will (Michael Vartan).
In fact, Sy has made the Yorkin family his little obsession, collecting copies of their photos for his own personal family album. And whenever Sy's active imagination lets him, he projects himself into the pictures as Uncle Sy, one of the family. Creepy!
Soon, Sy's quirks, arguments with the maintenance guy, and skimming of photos for his own collection get him fired, and once that happens, problems begin to escalate. Sy's loneliness catalyzes desperate actions on his part, and things get even worse when he finds evidence that daddy Will Yorkin is having an affair. He takes the infidelity as a personal affront (since in his imagination he's become part of the family), becomes a knife-wielding fruit-cake, and goes on a tear.
The film has suspense, to be sure, built in part by the side-treks into Sy's fantasy world, a place both charming in its innocence and deeply perturbing in its departure from reality. The viewer is likely to feel sickly revulsion at this strange little man, but not without a note of sympathy for his loneliness. Writer/director Mark Romanek shows good skill in this blending of emotional response. As a bonus, he does some didactic hand-holding in his dialogue, which helps the slower viewers to keep up with his subtlety.
I like that the film's excitement comes from its characters and events, and that it portrays a likely enough situation, exaggerated only enough to make the story unfold. There are no screeching cellos and no fake blood spurting, which lets the film put itself in the company of skilled, Hitchcock thrillers like The Rear Window.
In general, the folks and I were quite pleased with the movie and would recommend it, especially for those who want to respect Williams and put his period of facile and saccharine role into the forgotten past.
What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?
What to do while watching: The main thing you're watching for is nude scenes, and there really aren't that many. The next main thing you're watching for is 1970s style. Once you get bored of that, you can do most anything while watching: sweep the floor, pay bills, fall asleep...
What to eat while watching: Spaghetti
Warson picked this one out, having always wanted to see the Candid Camera feature. Alan Funt, the old show's host, inserts himself in the film in much the same way he did on his show. He hosts, narrates, stars in many of his own stunts, and continually congratulates himself on his brilliance. What sets this movie apart from the television show is his freer reign to include various states of nudity.
The first set of pranks has to do with a nude woman stepping out of an elevator. A secret camera records the awkward glances, the blushes, the broad smiles, and such, of the people who encounter the nude woman in the hallway. Funt's actresses act as though their public nudity were the most normal thing in the world, leaving all the reaction to the witnesses. Chuckle-worthy.
What gets more annoying is that Funt has gathered several normal people in a screening room, and between segments, he grills them on what they think of all this. An old-world lady says she thinks it's wrong, but Funt, on the side of the hip and young, argues that nudity is perfectly natural. Though this is amusing for a short while, the forum itself is very self-indulgent, and several times in the movie, Funt and his subjects digress into didactic and extremely outdated conversations about sexuality. These discussions are even more out of date than the hairstyles and fashions in this 1970 movie.
The best of this film, to my sense of camp, are the theme songs. Each prank has its own musical interpretation in a 70s pop style. Lyrical gems abound such as: "What do you say to a naked lady/who your barely know?/Do you talk about the weather.../or do you say ‘Hi,/how nice to see you.'" The theme songs almost make the film a musical and are perfect material for some hip band to cover.
For prurient views of topless girls, the movie is worth viewing for about 30 minutes. As a time-capsule curio, it's worth viewing another 10. After that, what you get out of it depends entirely on what you put into it. I conclude, therefore, that I have little to put into it.