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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 26.79%
Pretty Bad: 28.57%
Total Crap: 8.93%

7 reviews, 14 user ratings

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Night Listener, The
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by Erik Childress

"I’m Paul Harvey And Where’s The Rest Of The Story?"
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: I’m fascinated by the line that separates short stories and the ones worthy of novel length. They read different. They feel different. At what point has the author made their decision to extend their story in order to explore its internal themes or shorten it to a point that satisfies both the reader and the writer? Armistead Maupin’s The Night Listener was not a short story, but his adaptation for the screen often feels like it. There’s a roaming ethereal quality to it that takes on a special relevance in light of the James Frey scandal, but by not playing fair with us, the questions we’re left with at the end isn’t just a pronounced ambiguity, but a puzzle with more than a few pieces missing.

Gabriel Noone (Robin Williams) is one of those sad voices you might find late at night on the AM dial; an author who shares his tales for an hour and generally putting you to bed with a depressive’s view of the world. His longtime companion (Bobby Cannavale), a much younger man whom he loved through his battle with AIDS (and used as a frequent source of inspiration for his radio stories) has gotten better and now would like to explore the other avenues available to him. Like other guys. Gabriel’s publisher friend (Joe Morton) shows him a remarkable manuscript about a boy’s battle in being used as a sex slave in a ring started by his own parents. All the more remarkable in that it was written by the 14 year-old himself.

Pete (Rory Culkin), himself infected after the years of trauma, has also used Gabriel’s radio show as a means of hope and enjoyment. Flattered by the self-professed fan, Gabriel begins a friendly relationship with Pete over the phone as Donna, the social worker (Toni Collette) who has cared for him all these years, keeps him informed of his declining health. When it’s suggested to Gabriel that Pete and Donna sound remarkably similar, he sets off on an investigation to discover the truth.

That truth may be more complicated than we’re willing to accept though. Unlike Gabriel, we’re not just hearing a voice on the telephone. We are witness to Pete himself on the other end, so it should be less of a mystery and more a complicated study of a man so mistrustful of the personal connections in his life that he’s willing to discredit everyone else for selfish purposes. His journey leading him to Donna finds additional truths about herself and even less about Pete. Like their own personal Spanish Prisoner, Pete is never around when Gabriel requests his presence and the deeper he goes, the more convoluted the explanation is and the early scenes play as even a greater cheat.

There’s a great drama lying just underneath the need of all the red herrings. We have two (or three) storytellers beset by personal traumas and unforgiving parents, letting the pain out by sharing it to others with the only outlet they feel comfortable in. But like them, there’s a connection that’s missing which keeps us at a distance while the exercise tries to work itself out. The Night Listener may have worked in the hour timeslot of Noone’s show; a bedtime tale of caution and discovery like a stretched-out version of Paul Harvey’s “rest of the” stories. But by the time the second commercial break hits trying to sell us on something else, we may be ready to turn the channel for good.

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originally posted: 02/23/06 06:13:38
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/09/08 adrienn it's a great psychological drama 4 stars
5/17/07 ES Confusing, uninspired and nothing going for it. Save your money people 2 stars
4/13/07 Anikka And the end of this film I wish I could have my time back. 1 stars
2/16/07 ole tom As much as I like Williams in his serious mode, this vehicle drags so much, it might have 3 stars
1/10/07 action movie fan a mystery that remains a mystery 2 stars
9/16/06 joanne parker absolutely awful, my partner and I sat yawning non-stop for an hour the left. 1 stars
9/05/06 Rapunzel Gladstone My son liked it exactly as well as I did! 2 stars
8/17/06 Pn. Remember "Night Gallery"? Now that was awesome. Williams better than the flim as a whole. 3 stars
8/14/06 ahnold Easily 10x better than Pirates or Vice b/c this movie actually has a reasoned plot. 4 stars
8/14/06 greg Disappointingly awful. 1 stars
8/08/06 Jason One of the worst films I have ever seen. Why not make a documentary instead 1 stars
7/28/06 EdwinDrood Authors should never be allowed to adapt their own books for the screen. 2 stars
1/28/06 xtc toni collette is the new kathy bates from misery 4 stars
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  04-Aug-2006 (R)
  DVD: 09-Jan-2007



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