The Night Listener
directed by Patrick Stettner
(Miramax, 2006)

I have to admit I was a little disappointed by this movie. I was expecting a tense, psychological thriller (Robin Williams has more than proved his ability to deliver along these lines before), but for whatever reason The Night Listener never truly captured my imagination. I must disagree with those who designate the film as a horror movie -- it's not scary, it's only marginally suspenseful, and its twists and turns don't really have any oomph to them. In my opinion, it's a bit of a reach to even refer to The Night Listener as a psychological thriller.

Williams plays Gabriel Noone, a writer/radio personality who develops a friendship with a mysterious young man in Wisconsin. It starts with a publishing friend giving him an advance copy of a book the young man has written -- it's a harrowing tale about a childhood full of sexual abuse. Now, at 14, young Pete Logand is living with the social worker who helped save him and facing a terminal fight against AIDS. Gabriel soon begins talking to the boy and his caregiver on a daily basis. It's a vulnerable time in his life, as Jess (Bobby Cannavale), his male companion of the past eight years, has moved out, espousing the need for some space of his own. As it happens, though, Jess is actually the first person to express doubts about Pete's story. Gabriel rejects the very idea out of hand, but developments ultimately lead him to ask his own questions about Pete and his caregiver Donna (Toni Collette). Intent to get to the bottom of everything, he flies to Wisconsin to see Pete and Donna for himself. What he finds there, though, are more questions than answers.

Frankly, I never really cared whether Pete existed or not. Williams is good in the role of Gabriel, but I never connected with his character emotionally. Without that connection, the suspenseful scenes just weren't that suspenseful. Additionally, there's never really a climactic moment in the entire story. All of our questions are answered by the very end, but those answers are presented in a somewhat clinical fashion. My ultimate judgment is that The Night Listener is a good movie, but I just don't think it's capable of generating a lot of water cooler conversation.

review by
Daniel Jolley

6 October 2007

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