Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Alternate Best Actor 2002: Robin Williams in One Hour Photo

Robin Williams did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a few critic awards, for portraying Seymour "Sy" Parrish in One Hour Photo.

One Hour Photo is an effective thriller about a worker at a one hour photo who becomes obsessed with the family of one of his customers who he sees as ideal.

Robin Williams has not been a preferred performer for me, and it is not that I don't think he has talent. He is funny comedian but his style of comedy rarely works within a character, and it can be especially distracting when he throws in a comedic bit in an otherwise straight performance and really breaks cahracter just to have a moment for Robin Williams the comedian. Robin Williams performance here is the first time, out of his performances that I have reviewed, where I can say that he doesn't once fall onto his abilities as comedian, and instead stays with his character for the entire film.

Williams is very much against his usually lively type portraying Sy the man who runs a photo booth in a large department store. Sy is a very lonely man who only seems to take solace in that he is good at his job as well as in the photos of a life he dreamed he had. Williams really reigns himself in as he portrays Sy as a very introverted, and at least at first quiet man. As the worker at the booth Williams puts on a smile to the customers as a good employee should but as well as man trying to be happier than he is. Within his eyes Williams suggests appropriately an anguish and deep seeded sadness in the man that is something almost always prevalent in some way.

Sy is a disturbed man although not disturbed in the way you might expect. He makes copies of the happy photos for himself, but technically speaking his intentions for this are not evil. He has no sinister plans for the father, the mother, or son all he really wants to be is part of their life and apparently would be happy just to be their friend. Williams does well not to try to make Sy any psychopath in this regard and his obsessions with the family are handled in just the right way. Williams most certainly is unnerving in his portrayal as Sy tries to get just the slightest connection with any of the family, but Williams is genuine in Sy's desires which although are off putting are understandable in that it is a lonely man looking for someone to love.

Williams is very good in his creation of Sy as a character because he allows sympathy for the man while at the same time building the unease by establishing that Sy definitely has problems that go even beyond his loneliness. In every attempt just to work his way into his good graces we see the genuine desire just for friendship in Williams's performance so we do feel for him. At the same time Williams though does bring across the unpleasantness of the situation in the way Sy both comes on too strongly each time as well as never seems to be able to connect with them. This dynamic that Williams creates makes every scene where Sy tries to befriend any of the family members particularly effective as they heartfelt while being off putting.

Sy's mental state quickly begins to deteriorate when he fired from his job for making all the copies of the photos, and to only further his distress he learns that his ideal family is less than perfect with the husband being an adulterer. Robin Williams is pent up for most of the film so when he unravels it might have been an easy time to overact, Williams though stays within the character of Sy and is very effective as Sy begins to come up with a very strange plan.Sy slowly begins to unravel to the point he finally seems to snap as he enacts his bizarre plan. Williams is very good because he is careful not to make Sy just an evil psychopath even though he is brandishing a knife. He's quite frightening to be sure because Williams still makes it the same old Sy who has finally let loose his rage.

Throughout the film it is apparent that something in Sy's past has brought him not only to his introverted state, but as well in his obsession with the family. Williams certainly gives subtle hints throughout, but it is more apparent in his last scene as Sy's explains why he did what he did. When Sy opens up this time about himself it is a powerful scene and Williams is heartbreaking as we see exactly what happened to Sy. Although it is not fully explained actually it is made obvious by Williams's flawless delivery of Sy's final speech on how exactly how father's should treat their sons. This is a very strong performance by Robin Williams that drives the film exceedingly well. I won't say Williams's turn even surprised me, as I always thought he had talent, instead this is just a great example of how good he can be when he reigns himself in.


koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I (obviously) prefer him in Insomnia perhaps because of just how unflinching he was in his role as a remorseless killer. Sy may be a more sympathetic character, but his killer in Insomnia is the real success story for Williams as an actor.

Anonymous said...

Christ, I haven't seen this either.

RatedRStar said...

I think he could be a contender for Insomnia for the win, I reckon it ll be between him and one actor who I very recently mentioned =D ill not spoil who and what film ill vote for supporting.

houndtang said...

Not a huge Williams fan, but 2002 was a good year for him in two serious roles. It's a strange fact that actors are often at their best when cast against their usual 'type'. See also Pierce Brosnan in 'The Matador', Hugh Grant in 'About a Boy' (the latter was also a nomination worthy performance I reckon)

Psifonian said...

Fascinating write-up. I always felt that Williams's performance was better than the surrounding film. The last fifteen minutes also felt like a real cop-out ending to me.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@Psifonian: I sort of agree. I have to re-watch to make sure, though.