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The Night Listener (2006)

DVD Cover (Miramax)
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5.9
 / 10
6 votes
Genres:
Mystery, Psychological Thriller
Director:
Patrick Stettner Patrick Stettner
Starring:
Robin Williams Robin Williams
Toni Collette Toni Collette
Joe Morton Joe Morton
Bobby Cannavale Bobby Cannavale
Rory Culkin Rory Culkin
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: August 13, 2006
Robin Williams is one of those actors that can pretty much do anything. He can handle the slapstick humor of "Mrs. Doubtfire", the sentimentality of "Good Morning, Vietnam", the heartbreaking honesty of "Dead Poets Society", the intensity of "Good Willing Hunting", and the creepy peculiarity of "One Hour Photo". He does it all, and he does it all well. "The Night Listener" falls into the same category as his more darker fare, i.e. "One Hour Photo" and "Insomnia". This is a film I had been waiting on for a long time. I love seeing what Williams' choses, and I especially love seeing talented ensembles that includes Toni Collette and Sandra Oh. "The Night Listener" starts off as one of the title characters radio broadcasts and it spins an intricate web of drama, humor, mystery, and intrigue that kept me riveted throughout. It took me a while to come to the conclusion that this was one of the best films of the year, but now that I have, I can look back and see why I feel that way. "The Night Listener" is a treat for the detective in all of us.

Based on the novel by Armistead Maupin, Robin Williams stars as Gabriel Noone, the popular host of the nightly radio talk show, "Noon At Night", on which Noone tells stories that only he can tell, most recently revolving around his lover Jess (Bobby Cannavale), a former HIV sufferer who now seems better and has moved out to explore other options. Noone is introduced to a book supposedly written by a 14-year-old AIDS patient named Pete Logand. Noone develops a telephone relationship with the boy until he slowly begins to realize that Pete may actually not even exist at all, but merely be the alternate personality of his bizarre and blond adopted mother, Donna Logand (Toni Collette).

As Gabriel begins to unravel the mystery, he drags the audience deeper and deeper into a story that gets more weird with each and every turn. Is Pete Logand real? That is the primary question. By the end of the film, that has been answered and a whole lot more. "The Night Listener" wraps slowly around the audience and absorbs them in the characters and the story. This is one of those films that just looks, sounds, and feels professional - it gives films a good name.

What director Patrick Stettner capitalizes on here is the strange relationship that develops between Williams' character and the boy. The character has just broken up with his longtime boyfriend and is looking for something, or someone. He makes a connection with a 14-year-old boy, and it seems like that connection might be drifting over into pretty adult areas. Never do we believe that Williams' character means the boy harm or is doing anything insidious, but it does make us wonder what his true motivations are in this pseudo-relationship. Another strength of the film is the well-placed and subtle humor that parades around the characters. For example, when Williams' character is on the plane and the male flight attendant says to him, "Thank for all you do...for us", referring to the character's dealings with the homosexual community. Then the lady sitting next to Williams leans over and says, "You do something for flight attendants?" It's that kind of humor that both adds to the character development and the overall flow of the film. Director Stettner knows that you needs to keep the audience entertained if you expect them to follow along with the story and try to guess what is going to happen. M. Night Shyamalan knows this the best, but Stettner follows.

As for the performances, you really couldn't ask for a better ensemble cast here. Robin Williams delivers his best performance since "Insomnia" as Gabriel Noone, turning this character into a complex and engaging individual whom the audience can identify with. Toni Collette gives yet another Oscar caliber performance as Donna Logan, the strange mother of the 'supposed' sick child. She plays blind better than anyone I have ever seen play blind, and she does it so effortlessly. I am always fascinated by watching her on screen. The fabulous supporting cast is rounded out by Bobby Cannavale as Williams' longtime lover, Sandra Oh as what I can only describe as Williams' technology savvy housekeeper, and Rory Culkin as Pete Logand, whom we see, not in reality, but in scenes that are suppose to represent the way Williams' character is envisioning him.

For an all around enjoyable night at the movies, "The Night Listener" comes highly recommended by this critic. The trailers might mislead some potential audience members by making them think it is a little too artsy. It is not. Just because it is produced by IFC Films does not mean that it is not accessible to the masses. True, this is not "Insomnia", but nor is it "One Hour Photo". You are allowed to root for this Robin Williams - you are allowed to enjoy him as both a character and a performer. "The Night Listener" is one of the best films of the year because it gives you a story that you want to follow - it gives you characters you find impossible to dislike - and it gives you a resolution that is satisfying in that it makes you feel like you've accomplished something in your detective work. It makes the audience feel like they have made something happen, and when a film can do that and do it effectively, it deserves a bigger audience that what this one will likely receive.

9.5/10.
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Lucid Dreams #1: Lucid Dreams - added 06/13/2010, 02:57 PM
When my wife rented it I thought it was going to be boring, but I was mistaken and it was a good watch. 8/10
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