Wednesday, August 09, 2006

My Take - The Night Listener

My Take on the Movies
A Mini-Review of
By: A. L. “Toni” Anderson

Robin Williams (Poseidon and RV - 2006) stars as Gabriel Noone, an openly gay nighttime talk radio host, in Armistead Maupin’s The Night Listener (2006). Maupin’s screenplay is based on his novella of the same name, which is itself based on actual events. The film is directed by Patrick Stettner (Flux -1996), who, along with Terry Anderson (a crewmember on the set of Maupin’s Tales of the City and More Tales of the City) also shares writing credits.

In his extremely popular talk show, Gabriel uses real episodes from his own life with his live-in lover Jess (Bobby Cannavale of Will & Grace) as conversational material. As a result of the exposure of his personal life, the whole world believes it knows Gabriel, and Jess by extension. This familiarity leads indirectly to a bizarre set of circumstances which underlie the film, and the non-fiction book upon which it is based.

On the heels of Jess’s departure from their mutual home and Gabriel’s resultant depression and “writer’s block”, Gabriel’s publisher friend Ashe (Joe Morton of CSI: New York) offers him a pre-publication copy of a book that he believes will help him deal with his issues. The book is written from the perspective of an individual who has been severely abused, and who has learned to cope with adversity. Gabriel eventually begins a telephonic relationship with Pete Logand (Rory Culkin of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and younger brother of Macaulay Culkin), the 14-year-old boy who is alleged to be the author. From the start, the relationship is controlled by Pete’s mother Donna (Toni Collette of In Her Shoes - 2005). It appears to be beneficial to both Gabriel and Pete, until Jess notices something strange about the Logands. Thus begins the unraveling of a true life mystery that has yet to be fully resolved.

The cast of characters (apparently an entire town) who protect Pete and Donna from Gabriel’s investigative prying include Ed Jewett (Dawn’s Early Light - 2005) and Becky Ann Baker (Law & Order). Gabriel’s bookkeeper is played by Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy).

It is a testament to Williams’s acting ability that Armistead Maupin personally contacted him to offer the role. Maupin must have been pleased with Williams’s performance; I certainly was. It should also be noted that Collette is exceptionally adept in her portrayal of the elusive Donna. As difficult as it may have been to translate the novella onto the screen, it all comes together with startling intensity.

I love a good mystery, and The Night Listener’s plot twists, constant roadblocks, eerie music, and the excellent acting skills exhibited all add up to a good, if somewhat quirky, mystery. This one gets my vote. [1:31]

♠ ♠ ♠ ♠

[© 08/09/2006]


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