The Night Listener (15)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/09/2006

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 91 mins

Worthy but ultimately dull drama, despite a decent performance from Toni Collette.

What's it all about?
Robin Williams plays Gabriel Noone, a late-night New York radio host whose long-term partner (Bobby Cannavale) is leaving him. When his agent (Joe Morton) asks him to read a manuscript written by an abused 14 year old boy named Pete (Rory Culkin), Gabriel speaks to the boy on the phone and eventually decides he wants to meet him.

However, when Gabriel travels to Wisconsin to meet the boy, he finds only Donna (Toni Collette), the boy's supposed guardian, who fobs him off with a number of reasons as to why Pete's not available. And as his relationship with Donna develops, Gabriel begins to suspect that something strange may be going on.

The Good
Unsurprisingly, Toni Collette is the main reason to see this, giving a performance that is probably better than the film deserves. There's also strong support from the likes of Bobby Cannavale (in a painfully underwritten role), Rory Culkin and Sandra Oh, who gets all the best lines, since her character seems to be the only one with a sense of humour.

The Bad
Williams adopts his standard sad-eyed and serious mode for the film and shuffles around looking depressed accordingly. It's not a bad performance exactly but Gabriel's not much fun to be around and the film becomes quite difficult to sit through after a while.

The Night Listener is based on the novel by Armistead Maupin which was, in turn, based on his own experiences. However, the film brushes over certain elements of the book (most notably Gabriel's relationship with his partner) and shies away from its more important themes (AIDS, child abuse etc), leaving the equivalent of a sanitised TV version of the book.

Worth seeing?
In short, although Maupin's own experiences were undoubtedly weird, they don't really tell us anything we didn't already know and the result is ultimately rather pointless. Wait till it shows up on TV.

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Content updated: 21/03/2019 22:51

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