Here we have one of those roles where Robin Williams simultaneously truly impressed me and deeply concerned me. His ability to detach — as evidenced by this chilling character, a lonely one-hour-photo developer named Seymour “Sy” Parrish — seemed like a mere eject button he could push (“get me outta here”), an escape route so desperately needed yet so subtle we never stopped to think about the fact he might be saying something more than what the script is telling him to bring to the table.
Yeah, yeah. . .the whole ‘reading into things too much.’ It’s all too easy to do when he’s just so different in this role, and incidentally more convincing here than in any other role he’s ever played, if you ask me. From a completely objective standpoint, this is perhaps Robin Williams’ most technically impressive role, as he dials down his manic energy to a 1 out of 10. It’s the kind of taut, disciplined lead performance that should have earned him more than a Saturn Award.
In the course of 90 minutes, we go from meeting Sy, a painfully awkward man who works diligently to make sure all the photos he develops are as high quality as they can be; to empathizing with a true loner who uses his job as a way to socialize with the outside world (namely the Yorkin family, his favorite customers); to becoming excruciatingly uncomfortable around a sociopathic man desperate to make one family’s life experiences and memories his own, living vicariously through the prints he develops for them on a regular basis. His initial friendliness morphs into an extreme associative psychological disorder that is portrayed with brilliance and bravery by Robin Williams.
I particularly like this scene, not only because it was the most readily-available clip I could find. . .like, anywhere, but because it. . .well, it freaks me out. This is so unlike Robin Williams, but goes to exemplify the actor’s depth. Granted, a great deal of what makes those ten seconds eeky-creeky is the stylistic flourishes applied by cinematographic genius Jeff Cronenworth, who bathes the entire affair in a haunting, listless monotone, but it’s still Williams dead-center, and wow. The first time I watched this film was immediately before going to bed. That was. . .kind of a mistake. . .
Quoted: “What the hell is wrong with these people?”