One Hour Photo
dir. Romanek
Opens Fri Aug 30
Various Theaters

One Hour Photo is an armchair psychologist's wet dream. And, like most pop psych and self-help programs, it's sorta cliché, sorta predictable, and not exactly snooze-inducing--but not as riveting or illuminating either.

The premise: Robin Williams plays Sy the Photo Guy, a balding control freak who manages a one-hour photo shop. Sy treats his job with the care of a poet; he muses on the photos, and how people never photograph the things they want to forget--it's all just weddings, birthdays, and romantic getaways.

Sy's longtime customers, The Yorkins--Will, Nina, and little Jake--are this picture-perfect, hottie yuppie family. They're living the contemporary American materialist's dream; Will is a graphic designer, Nina is the tres fashionable stay-at-home mom, Jake is well-adjusted and good at soccer. Perfect.

Only, this is where the pop psychology first rears its head. Something has changed between Will and Nina. Nina accuses him of being "an emotionally neglectful husband" and Will counters with the typical response--these things cost money, I have to work for your nice things, including that "Jil Sander blouse you're wearing." (Groan.) At this point, you have to pinch yourself to make sure you're not watching the Oxygen Network.

But this is also where Robin Williams comes in. He is utterly obsessed with the Yorkins; Nina and Jake in particular. Through processing their photos, he's followed their seemingly happy lives; and, because he's so lonely, he also pasted copies of nine years' worth of their photos to his wall in unabashed stalker fashion. Creepy.

Like any stalker story, the film's fate lies in the hands of the director. And Mark Romanek does a good job setting up and unfolding the story. Unfortunately, as Romanek is also the scriptwriter, he only has himself to blame for the slow pace of the dialogue. Undoubtedly he wrote it this patiently on purpose, not wanting to turn One Hour Photo into a stereotypically sensational Hollywood flick. But something about the pace renders it slightly innocuous; it's smart, but it also has the same feeling of basically every Michelle Pfeiffer vehicle of the past five years--as if by watching it, you've suddenly become middle-aged by association. And, aside from a pretty great performance by Robin Williams, One Hour Photo is just okay.