MR. WILLIAMS SMILE
by Michael Chasin
Robin Williams’ tragic passing was a jolt—that his mirth-filled, public persona—was very different from his private, personal life.
This concept of idealized life versus reality was explored in one of Mr. Williams’ best, but lesser known performances, in One Hour Photo, a small film.
In One Hour Photo, Mr. Williams portrayed Sy-the-photo-guy, at a (now almost extinct) one hour photo processing lab.
Sy, having developed film there for years, observed the happy, joyful moments in the lives of his customers—via their photos.
A shy and lonely man, Sy imagines normal life to be only the smiling events he sees in the pictures, focusing on one young family in particular.
When Sy processes the photos from the illicit affair of the husband, he is moved to disturbing action, unable to reconcile reality with his idealized version of their family life.
Mr. Williams’ moving and nuanced portrayal let us observe Sy’s happy, polite public life and gave us access to his profoundly lonely, fantasy-fueled private life.
Perhaps all we really know about our stars are the photos—in the form of movies and TV appearances—that they allow us to see.
This is the burden stars take on for us—maintaining an idealized image—that may be different from their reality, with problems that money simply can’t solve.
With his performance in One Hour Photo, Mr. Williams can help us with the difficult reconciling of the sad circumstances of his passing—and his comic persona.
I’m sure this is making Mr. Williams smile.