A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What's the story?
Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) cares deeply about making sure that the snapshots he develops at the SaveMart are as perfect as the family life he dreams that they represent. What captures Sy's attention is the peek inside lives of vibrancy, intimacy, connection, warmth, and affection. And the family that seems most perfect to him is Will and Nina Yorkin and their 9-year-old son, Jake. Inside the Yorkin house, though, Will accuses Nina of wanting her life to be like the pictures she looks at in magazines. Nina accuses Will of neglecting Jake and being distant from her. Another customer's photo order gives Sy evidence that Will Yorkin does not appreciate his family. And Sy's boss (Gary Cole) fires him for making hundreds of prints that are unaccounted for. He dreams of walking down endless, colorless, empty aisles at SaveMart, the bare shelves rising behind him like the wings of an avenging angel and his eyes spurting dark red blood. One Hour Photo begins with Sy having his mug shot taken in a police station. A detective tells him that they have developed his pictures and they are "not pretty." So we know from the beginning that something bad will happen.
Is it any good?
Writer/director Mark Romanek handles mood and tone well, but the film ends up being too much about images and surfaces, more artificial itself than the artificiality it attempts to depict. It's not about anything real. It's about what Romanek imagines middle America to be like. Romanek shows Sy and his small corner of the cavernous SaveMart in the blandest of neutral colors with cool undertones. The Yorkins, in person and in the photos meticulously color-balanced by Sy, are shown in warm, bright, vivid colors, while everything about Sy is beige, even his hair.
The attraction of the material for Williams is obvious, too. The utterly repressed character is the other end of the scale from his own personality and his best-known performances. But inside every comedian is a lot of hostility, and Williams uses his well to create both pathos and menace. Overall, the movie's logical lapses, odd conclusion, and too-easy explanation keep it from being completely successful. Like Sy, Romanek seems to have lost the boundaries between the observer and the image.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role that photographs play in their own lives. Would someone looking at your family's photographs get an accurate picture of your family? They could also talk about whether we do enough to pay attention to people who are less fortunate and may be lonely.
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