The Night Listener

"OK"

The Night Listener Review


I'm going to give Robin Williams the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is so detached and distant in The Night Listener because it's how his character goes through life, not because, if he's not wrestling wildlife in a tacky Winnebago, the actor has no clue what to do with his face.

I will also assume that the episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent I saw ages ago with this same story - only much juicier, with extortion and murder in that one - was inspired by the same source material, rather than the film being a watered-down version of a crime show franchise.

Even being so generous, though, The Night Listener is pretty murky and uninspired. Williams plays Gabriel Noone, a writer who reads his short stories on a late-night radio program, who is sullen and depressed by a break-up with his longtime lover, Jess (Bobby Cannavale). In the midst of this self-indulgent shuffling about comes a phone call from Pete, an adolescent fan (played by Rory Culkin) with a nightmarish past of abuse and torture who is terribly ill and living in hiding to avoid his vengeful parents. For reasons that are neither explored nor particularly explained, Gabriel becomes fixated on Pete and his plights.

When questions begin to arise about Pete's story - the similarity in his voice and that of his adoptive mother, Donna (Toni Collette), for instance, or the fact that no one has actually met Pete or Donna or has seen any official documents that can verify their story - Gabriel shifts his obsession to finding out whether the boy really exists, and "Pete" looks increasingly like a tenuously assembled paper man.

Writer/director Patrick Stettner keeps Listener to a trimmed down, efficient length - a smart move, considering we've got a detached, sad sack hero and a simple and easily resolved mystery. (It might be nice if he could make up his mind as to whether it was supposed to be resolved, however. Even though all the riddles get answered pretty clearly, the movie persists in pretending that there is some grand, lingering ambiguity.) Stettner is not quite as adept at making us care - we have no idea what deep personal resonance Pete strikes in Gabriel, so why would the prospect of fraud be anything more than an unnecessarily elaborate prank call? And why does the movie suddenly, and misguidedly, shift into pseudo-thriller territory once Gabriel heads to Wisconsin to investigate? He heads there to ferret out a possible lie, and abruptly, there is creepy music like there's a psycho killer on the rampage.

Fortunately, Listener is a case where the actors - even an unusually stiff Williams - make more of the material. Collette is unsurprisingly wonderful in all of Donna's various personalities, and the supporting cast, including Cannavale, Culkin, Joe Morton as Gabriel's publisher friend, and Sandra Oh as a spunky assistant, are uniformly excellent.

Based on a semi-autobiographical short story by Armistead Maupin, The Night Listener is unintentionally extremely timely, given the recent scandals in the publishing industry when James Frey and J.T. Leroy were revealed to be not quite what they professed. Though the relevance gives the tale a lot of credence - we are, after all, clearly willing to believe all manner of things just because someone tells them to us - the movie never achieves the same level of gripping drama. Perhaps it's because Robin Williams peering into dark windows doesn't offer the entertainment of Oprah delivering the mother of all verbal smackdowns, but in this case, the fictionalized account is just not as interesting as real life.

The DVD includes one deleted scene and a making-of featurette.

Is your refrigerator running?



The Night Listener

Facts and Figures

Run time: 91 mins

In Theaters: Friday 4th August 2006

Box Office USA: $7.8M

Distributed by: Miramax

Production compaines: Miramax Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 40%
Fresh: 54 Rotten: 80

IMDB: 5.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: Jill Footlick, , ,

Starring: as Donna D. Logand, as Gabriel Noone, as Ashe, as Jess, as Pete D. Logand, as Anna, Rodrigo Lopresti as Young Man at Party, as Pap Noone, as Darlie Noone, Guenia Lemos as Female Neighbor, Marcia Haufrecht as Pant Suited Woman, Nick Gregory as Flight Attendant, Ed Jewett as Mail Clerk, as Waitress, E.J. Carroll as Hospital Security Guard

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.