A small suspense-thriller to scratch your Hitchcockian itch
In The Night Listener, Robin Williams (Good Will Hunting, Happy Feet) plays Gabriel Noone, the host of the late-night national radio show "Noone at Night." When his publisher gives him the manuscript by Pete Logand (Rory Culkin), a severely abused, HIV-positive 14-year-old fan, Gabriel's life takes a turn for the peculiar. He develops an intense phone friendship with Pete and his adoptive social worker mother, Donna Logand (Toni Collette), only to start having questions about the Pete's identity.
Set against the backdrop of the breakup with his younger lover Jess (Bobby Cannavale), Noone's desire to uncover what is really going on with Pete and Donna quietly climbs to a simmering ending.
The Night Listener is a creepy, tense thriller made even creepier by its roots in reality. Originally a bestselling roman à clef by celebrated San Francisco-based author Armistead Maupin, the book recounted Maupin's true-life experience with a fan. The movie that resulted is decent, but not exactly nail-biting entertainment. Robin Williams turns in one of his memorable restrained performances as the vulnerable, and disheartened Noone. And when don't I love the understated Bobby Cannavale (Will and Grace, The Station Agent) and powerhouse Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine, Muriel's Wedding)?
The style of The Night Listener is a clear homage to Alfred Hitchcock, although the ending is more of a simmer than a boil. But if you like his signature subtle build and atmospheric spookiness, then thie movie is probably right up your alley.
What’s on the Disc:
Sadly, The Night Listener is disappointingly light on the extras, with only one featurette ("The Night Listener Revealed") and one deleted scene. But for true fans, the featurette does give an in-depth look at how much Maupin's real life experience played into the movie--including the fact that he co-wrote the screenplay with his ex-lover Terry Anderson, on whom the character of Jess is based.