OCMC: Seymour “Sy” Parrish in One Hour Photo

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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. . .

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Quoted: “What the hell is wrong with these people?”

32 thoughts on “OCMC: Seymour “Sy” Parrish in One Hour Photo

    • One Hour Photo is about as freaky as it gets with Robin Williams attached to a project. I absolutely love it. And I think you’re on to something there, this could very well be his most underrated. Definitely one of the more overlooked performances. Thanks Zoe. 🙂

  1. What a queasy film and a freaky scene. Williams had gone through a run of really shitty movies and for a couple of years did absolute crackers like this and Insomnia. Awesome stuff Tom.

    • It’s so brilliant! Yeah I almost wish, knowing how great the guy is in this, he did more roles similar to Sy Parrish. It’s just so unnerving and a refreshing turn from his giddy comedy. Don’t get me wrong; I love that too! Butt his makes him so much more 3-dimensional. Cheers buddy!

      Glad I could make u a bit uncomfortable 😉

    • Oh man, you should change that pronto! One Hour Photo is truly superb, and it is proof Robin Williams can absolutely play the straight man. This performance is one-of-a-kind. Sorry for taking so long to get back here man! Phew. Been a bit out of sorts. That bachelor party did a nice little number on me this wknd. . .

  2. I remember sticking this one on a few years back not really knowing anything about it and being genuinely creeped out by Williams’ performance. The film is good, but as the twisted, lurking Sy, Williams is brilliant. Great work Tom.

    Adam.

    • It’ll get you man, it’s a brave and radically different side of Williams. One Hour Photo I think is criminally underrated and I can’t believe Robin Williams didn’t get an Oscar nom for Sy Parrish. This character is incredibly unnerving. Maybe b/c this film is so settled into reality that it works so well

    • Cheers! I felt like it’s one certainly deserving of mentioning as it’s radically different from Williams’ other (great) stuff. A very cool film, and a haunting one nonetheless

  3. Great focus (pun intended?) on Williams’ most underrated performance. Here is he far from anything we’ve seen him like before, completely reserved, quiet, and terrifying. I forgot how creepy it really was…

    • Ooh, how pun!

      This one is seriously up there for me, he’s so damn creepy and it exhibits his range so well man. I do need to go back and watch it soon. I have only seen it twice as a matter of fact! And it still impressed me that much

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