One Hour Photo Robin Williams makes a real movie

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One Hour Photo presents a beautiful example of film craft. Indeed, it seems nearly Kubrickian in the careful, quiet precision of every aspect- not least among them the screenplay. You wouldn't expect this kind of character development from a director mostly known for Madonna and Nine Inch Nails music videos, but here it is.

Robin Williams mugshotThe tight restraint of Robin Williams performance winds the tension right up to the breaking point. Sy here is certainly at least as needy and vulnerable as any cute character he's ever played, but every bit of cuddly sentiment has been burned away. He's not evil or depraved, but neither is he any form of comedian doing "lovable" schtick. He does not make even one little joke in the whole course of the movie- at least not on purpose.

Williams chokes off every bit of his classic manic energy, which ends up channeling much meaning into every little bit of body language- while never devolving into obvious mannerisms. Even his crack-up comes out pretty buttoned-down. All that bottled up energy and angst comes out as a unique pallette of sadness, delusion, anger, depression, and a hundred subtle shades of emotion.

The movie uses beautiful economy. They don't need or indulge in huge emotional outbursts. They don't need or use a lot of fancy special effects. [Sometimes the limited budgets of art house films work to their advantage.] They constructed an outstanding, taut and logical plot. Here's the basic setup, then Sy gets one bit of critical info from some pictures coming in, which leads step by step to the logical conclusion. Precision engineered.

The ending of the movie really tops it off. After the nominal action climax come one and two more good bits. Notice the pictures that Sy was so eager to see at the beginning of the movie, and particularly what they are NOT. Sy's explanation to the policeman seems to have drawn some criticism for being somehow too "pat." The film makers could apologize for having made a movie where the parts all add up, I suppose.

Beyond any ultimate meaning of the movie, or ideas about Robin Williams, this movie should be seen by anyone who has any interest in the art of movies. Outstanding craft.

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