NIGHT LISTENER, THE
Gabriel Noone (Robin Williams) is a well-known story writer and late-night New York radio host, who often uses events in his own life to embellish his stories. He reads an unpublished manuscript written by 14 year old Pete Logand (Rory Culkin) who reveals a shocking story of abuse. An intense phone relationship with Pete and his adopted mother Donna (Toni Collette) follows, and Gabriel, who is vulnerable from the recent breakup with his live-in boyfriend Jess (Bobby Cannavale), becomes involved in their lives. When issues about Pete's identity arise, Gabriel goes to Wisconsin in an attempt to meet him and Donna and to sort things out for once and for all.
Review by Louise Keller:
The eerie and chilling mood is the best thing about The Night Listener, which falls down fatally with its poorly written script. The finger of blame points to director Patrick Stettner (The Business of Strangers), who wrote the script with Terry Anderson and Armistead Maupin, whose novel ('inspired by true events') is the basis for the story. Like Play Misty for Me, the premise begins with a radio host whose listener is obsessed with him. But that is where the similarity ends and Robin William's Gabriel Noone ('This is Noone at Night') soon becomes obsessed by his young listener Pete (Rory Culkin) and his adopted mother Donna (Toni Collette). The story twists and revelations are thrown away early in the proceedings and Gabriel's unbelievable actions destroy any sense of involvement. The talents of Williams and Collette are wasted in this ultimately silly psychological thriller that aspires to explore the line dividing perception from reality.
When we first see Culkin's Pete, the upside-down camera pans from his jeans to his head. It's an interesting shot but the story-telling sophistication it promises, never eventuates. The relationship that develops on the phone between Gabriel, Pete and Donna feels fake and it is ridiculous that it takes Gabriel's estranged boyfriend Jess (Bobby Cannavale) to point out that Pete and Donna sound alike. Williams' characterisation is one of a sad, lonely man who shrugs and smiles wryly, while Collette's Donna is an unfathomable character that is never a real person. Her hair mysteriously changes colour at one stage. Neither makes us care for them; Sandra Oh as Gabriel's accountant is the only ray of sunshine in the film.
As Gabriel flies from New York to Wisconsin to find Pete and Donna, the story takes a melodramatic turn, as he behaves uncharacteristically. The mood is genuinely creepy, though, with Peter Nashel's evocative score, and Stettner uses the desolate wintry surrounds and dark, shadowy nights to best effect. Sadly, the various plot strands are never satisfactorily resolved, nor is the final resolution satisfying.
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NIGHT LISTENER, THE (M)
CAST: Robin Williams, Toni Collette, Joe Morton, Bobby Cannavale, Rory Culkin, Sandra Oh, John Cullum, Lisa Emery
PRODUCER: Jill Footlick, John Hart, Robert Kessel, Jeff Sharp
DIRECTOR: Patrick Stettner
SCRIPT: Armistead Maupin, Terry Anderson, Patrick Stettner (novel by Armistead Maupin)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lisa Rinzler
EDITOR: Andy Keir
MUSIC: Peter Nashel
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Michael Shaw
RUNNING TIME: 81 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 15, 2007