One Hour Photo
dir. Mark Romanek

Opens Fri Aug 30 at various theaters.

The brilliance of Quentin Tarantino casting John Travolta in Pulp Fiction can be measured by the fact that by 1994 Travolta had, the odd talking-dog movie aside, vanished from the cultural radar. It was therefore a major shock to see him onscreen again--bloated, high on heroin, and eventually falling in a shower of bullets. He was no longer the Travolta of our memories. He had been reinvented.

Robin Williams has, unfortunately, never left our radar; he's always been there, releasing film after horrible film. And it's because of this proliferation of hackwork that Williams' recent attempt at a career-redefining hat trick has, for the most part, failed miserably.

Not that Williams isn't trying damn hard to give himself a makeover. In One Hour Photo--as in Death to Smoochy and Insomnia--he tackles menace with both arms and refuses to let go. As Sy Parrish, a lonely, pathetic photo technician obsessed with a local family whose photos he develops, he crams as much spite and brooding into his performance as 24 frames per second will allow. Through it all, though, Robin Williams--the one we remember--remains, undermining the performance. Simply put: Why is Mork acting so mean?

But all this bluster on Williams and his career (which we've had enough of in this issue, for sure) obscures the real question: Is One Hour Photo any good? The answer is no--not an emphatic no, but a no, nonetheless. Directed by Mark Romanek (who has made some amazing music videos in his career, including the outstanding Björk-as-robots-making-out clip for "All is Full of Love"), it is at best a mildly surprising thriller, and at worst a rather dull affair. Tedious and more than a little flaccid, it passes before your eyes in the shape of a shrug, easily forgotten once the lights come on. Romanek knows where to point a camera (as all video directors do), but items that breathe life into a feature-length film--characters you care about, transitions, pacing--are not yet in his inventory.

by Bradley Steinbacher