The Night Listener falls within the psychological thriller genre & I came across it, probably because it's bumped in popularity since Robin Williams' death, whilst browsing online. We're introduced to Gabriel Noone, a popular radio host, who begins the tale by telling real life stories to his night time listeners. But he's struggling; his inspiration seems to be suffering and he's having difficulties in his relationship with his HIV-positive partner, Jess. Gabriel receives an unpublished book; the 14 year old author is Pete Boland and it tells the story of his abusive childhood at the hands of his parents and their friends. He has AIDS and he is dying, living with his adopted mother Donna Boland. He speaks with Pete on the phone, who is a big fan of the show and Noone's personal monologues.
The calls become more frequent, with Noone befriending this dying young boy who has suffered so much. He speaks of his adoptive mother, who Noone also speaks with. Noone tries to meet with Pete, but with no luck. Something doesn't feel quite right, so Noone takes a chance and flies out to Wisconsin to find him and Donna. The question is, are these two people who they say they are?
It's a relatively straight forward premise, and it conjours a sense of mystery and suspense. It's claims to be based on real events, which we learn a little bit more about right at the end, and is adapted from a book by Armistead Maupin. The notion of questionable identity, of obsessive fans, of a relationship over distance without having met someone, are all quite intriguing. However, the premise felt a bit flimsy and this was highlighted towards the end. I had half expected what happened, so I felt it slightly predictable. But it didn't wrap things too well and felt it could have been given more depth and explanation behind the events and character motivation.
The cast includes Robin Williams, Bobby Cannavale, Rory Culkin, Toni Collette and Sandra Oh , amongst others. I was engaged by Williams throughout, who I felt played the popular yet struggling air host with integrity and believability. I could empathise with him, such as over his relationship troubles, though I did feel there was a certain something lacking from that relationship and Jess' character. The cast gave a fairly down to earth feel to the film but I did find them a tad dry at times.
At times the slower pace and 'normality' of it, without distracting us through fluff or effects, added to the atmosphere. However, it also made it feel a bit slow and undercooked at times. As for the thriller aspects, I think the atmosphere could have been heightened to make it creepier and more gripping.
All in all, it's not a film that particularly struck me. I thought it could have had more oomph and been more convincing. However, it was watchable thanks to the performances.
- Side Note -
If you really hate spoilers then you might prefer to skip this review, you could claim that I pretty much give away the main story of this movie but, as I mention later in my review, I feel its better if people have more knowledge about the plot as it should give you a better idea whether you'd be interested in it or whether you'd feel very let down and disappointed by it - so thats my excuse(!). I hope this is ok... feel free to leave me a comment if you don't agree, I could always re-type this review if many people think it should be necessary - thanks.
- Cast/Credits -
- Story -
The Night Listener tells the story of Gabriel Noone, a psychiatrist who hosts a radio show which a teenage boy (Logan) listens to and he feels compelled to phone him at home after the show finishes. Gabriel becomes quite close to this boy who, it turns out, has AIDS and has lived a particularly rough life and he wants Gabriel to help write/publish his autobiography. However, his mother often cuts in to the telephone conversations he has with him and in time others around Gabriel starts to question Logans identity, so Gabriel decides to travel to his hometown and attempt to meet up with him face to face but when he gets there, it turns out that this isn't as simple as he'd hoped. Is everything as it seems? can anything be proved either way and what about the mother? was Logan protected with a different name or was this all a massive hoax? ultimately there are some clues in the movie but its up to you to make your own decisions.
- Thoughts & Opinions -
This is a rather intriguing movie in one sense and a rather tired and muddled one, so to speak, in another. It seems that Robin Williams has been keen on starring on movies such as this over the last decade or so, this being a psychological drama/thriller, where 'all is not what it seems'. That may be being a little dramatic as its hardly a movie in which you'll find yourself shocked and gasping at any regular interval, instead its a rather dark movie set in the murky world of possible half-truths and that questions the motive of someone who has perhaps alot to gain from a book deal.
In the scene where Gabriel's friend/housekeeper explains that she thinks the mother could have a particular medical condition which is similar to Munchausen Byproxy, I could hear myself almost finishing her sentence as the Munchausen name reared its head *again*. I sometimes wonder if there isn't some specific fascination with the media, in TV and movies regarding this condition - I mean how many documentaries, dramas and the like have you seen that have some element, or an episode with a plot including something to do with someone with Munchausen or suspected Munchausen Byproxy syndrome? I feel like this is starting to become tacky almost, somehow. Its not to say that it isn't a genuine condition but in a way its perhaps a little like memory loss, how often are there convenient storylines involving people who wake up in hospital or someplace else and they can't remember who they are? in reality, from what I've been led to believe, its very rare for people to suffer complete memory loss like this - it tends to be that people suffer a more temporary short term memory loss and a longer memory loss in terms of events happening right before whenever they were knocked out or whatever caused the concussion and memory loss, from the little I've seen or read about this.
Of course I can't say what the outcome of the movie is and it would be unfair to say that the entire movie is about somebody who is outed as having Munchausen, indeed that term is only mentioned once in the movie and during the movie, there's surprisingly little in terms of people really interacting with the mother let alone diagnosing her. Really the outcome is left to the viewer, ultimately you have to, I suppose, be like Gabriel and come to your own conclusions.
In a sense, it makes me think about people that I've been in contact with through the internet, infact I'd be surprised if there isn't anyone who regularly uses the internet to meet and talk to people living far away, who haven't lost touch with someone or who at some point, wondered about what they had told them, wondered about this other person and whether to take at face value what their being told. I don't think that its necessarily fair to write everyone off (ie as being liars or someone completely different to whom they claim to be) so to speak, of course and again I'm not saying that I'd even agree with Gabriel thinking that Peters situation is all in the mother's head (ultimately its up to the viewer to come to their own conclusions) but then again I suppose I like to believe in things more than others maybe(?) if you know what I mean.
I felt that this movie was quite dark and sad and it leaves you wondering, so it is a rather unsatisfying movie if that makes any sense, although in a way perhaps its a relief that this is a Hollywood movie without that obligatory Hollywood ending - it maybe depends on what you prefer, whether or not your going to like this.
I apologise if you feel like I've given away too much of this movie but there again, I think it should help give you a better idea what the movie is about and if you don't like the sound of where the plot goes (and spends most of its time trying to determine) then you'll know to steer clear of it. If you find the subject matter rather intriguing or fascinating and you'd like to find out more, see what Gabriel discovers and the characters involved so you can come to your own conclusions, then by all means you should watch it and make what you will of it.
I should say that this movie, at least the version I watched which I recorded from TV (It was shown on BBC1 at night recently) was only an hour and a quarter long, which is really quite short by modern day film standards - I thought this was quite a good length of time actually, had it continued much longer it would very much be dragging on and getting more slow and depressing I'd imagine but had it been any shorter, that would be barely movie length, I suppose, so I quite like that it was a shorter length movie.
- Would I Recommend It? -
This can often be a difficult question to answer, such as in times like this. I think it depends - there will be those that find it intrguing, fascinating, even anti-Hollywood (bravo!), although with Robin Williams and a Culkin actor in it, I suppose its a bit laughable to say that but all the same... for people who find the concept behind it and the fact that it is, even if loosely, based on real life events, fascinating, then I'd say its worth seeing so you can make your own mind up regarding the story (though how close it is to what happened I couldn't say) but for most others, no I don't think I would recommend it and going back to basics as a general thriller/drama movie, I don't think its particularly good. I feel that its quite a dark movie that is a bit confusing and the ending could be a real let down for some, the pace is a bit slow and it could confuse people too, so all in all, no I don't think I would recommend it, only to those that have a specific interest in the events and the story behind it, just don't expect a great deal from it, certainly no major answers.
Overall I'd rate this as somewhere between satisfactory and good, again a 3.5 rating would probably be more fair but as it stands, considering there isn't one, overall I'm going to go for a 3 star rating.
Thanks for reading my review, I hope you found it useful. Many thanks for all r/r/c's, their much appreciated. This review was originally posted on Ciao UK.
I was excited about watching the movie, seeing as the front cover of the dvd case was covered in stars, i was expecting big things.
Seeing it was made by the same people that did the sixth sense i was expecting to be a little spooked as well as made to think and i love movies that make me think.
The movie is about a late night radio host(played by robin williams) who recieves a call from his biggest fan, a young boy who is now living with an overprotective foster mother. I dont want to spoil the movie but we find out that the boy used to listen to his show late at night and it would help him forget about the bad things that happened to him.
As the movie goes forward, we realise that robin williams is indeed playing a gay man, it did take me a while to realise this i thought him and his friend were just very friendly. And maybe the boy isnt who he seems, maybe the boy doesnt really exist.
The movie raises alot of questions, but you should be warned.
They'll never be answered.
as the movie is based on a real story we never know what really happened which really ruined the film for me.
I dont like being left on a cliffhanger.
Getting into the nerdy aspects of the film, it was shot very well and the musics very good. Also its got that lady from greys anatomy in it which i thought you'd like to know.
And wills boyfriend from will and grace.
so tharrr ya go.
If you want to know anything else then send me a message, thats all i can think of at the moment.
Radio storyteller Gabriel Noone has become famous telling tales nightly about him and his gay lover Jess, a man dying of AIDS. When it transpires that Jess might not die due to new wonder drugs, Jess moves out on Gabriel and there 8 year relationship. Jess wants to see what life is all about, having surrendered to the fact that he was going to die for so long. In moving out Gabriel loses his inspiration to tell stories. With this and his emotions running rife his life is in begins to turn to tatters.
Good friend Ashe in the hope to give Gabriel some inspiration gives him a book written by a 14 year old boy. The book tells how the boy in question was the victim of a paedophile ring in a small town in Wisconsin. Having been moved by the book, on a later meeting Ashe asks Gabriel to call the boy whose name is Pete as it transpires that Pete is a big fan of Gabriel. It's only a matter of time before the two strikes up a friendship over the telephone, the relationship widens as Pete's new adopted mother Donna joins in their conversations. But this relationship is doomed for Pete is dying, due to diseases picked up during his time being molested. But something else happens that disturbs Gabriel too; when Gabriel calls Jess round to fix the electrics Pete and Donna ring, Jess rather cautiously tells Gabriel that he believes both Pete and Carol to be the same person.
The Night Listener is a true adaptation of events that happened to Armistead Maupin, about 15 years ago. The movie has divided its viewers with people either loving it, or completely hating it. Made on a shoestring budget I personally found it one of the better movies I have seen this year.
Robin Williams who I have no real like of with the exception of his role in One Hour Photo, plays an almost completely serious role as Gabriel. I keep expecting him to jump into some ridiculous comedy routine, but he never does. He remains straight laced for the entire movie, and as the movie nears its conclusion a little bit offensive. That being said he plays the role admirably and his character is very likeable. As a man in the public eye who is loved by millions of gay listeners, during the few moments of recondition by fans he remains incredibly well mannered, though at one occasion almost caught out in a lie.
Toni Collette is almost unrecognisable as Donna whom we initially see as she appears to us in real life; during telephone conversations with Gabriel. However when Gabriel finally meets Donna she looks nothing like he expected her to look having drawn a mental picture in his mind (the image we initially see of Donna). Donna in reality is a well loved and well respected member of her community, for not only is she raising a sick child, but she is also blind.
The story plays on your emotions because you never really can tell whether the story of Donna and Pete is true. For each time you assume this is a confidence trick of sorts, something comes up to question both you as the viewer and Gabriel for carrying out the thoughts of the movies audience. The movie is one of the shorter films I have seen of late with just 69 minutes of actual story between the overly long opening and closing credits. This in my opinion is why the movie works so well, other producer director teams would drag the story out pointlessly; the Night Listener focuses purely on the facts and comes off almost like one of those BBC Drama Documentaries that seem all the rage at the moment.
More often than not the movie is filmed in the darkness; this gives the movie an eerie feel from the start to the finish. It also drives the momentum of the story, so on this occasion I commend the use of dark shots (something that normally annoys me). You must also take into account that it's a good plot device, bearing in mind that Donna is blind.
A theatrical trailer tells you little about the movie and in honesty would not encourage me to want to see it. The second feature is a set of interviews with Robin Williams who for once stays focused through the entire interview (this is a side of Williams he really should show more often, as I find him a lot more likeable). Patrick Stenner the director talks about the beauty of bringing the story to the screen. And Armistead Maupin who the story actually occurred to, talks about the series of emotions that the events took him through.
You can purchase the DVD from play.com for £4.99