An interesting film showcasing Robin Williams in a different kind of role.
Paltry special features.
In the moody, psychological thriller The Night Listener, Robin Williams plays a writer/radio show host named Gabriel Noone. This closed off character seems unable to separate his life from his work, and that's exactly why his boyfriend Jess (Bobby Cannavale) is leaving him. During this time he is given a manuscript by his editor which details the abuse of a young man. It turns out this is supposedly a true story written by a 14 year old boy named Pete Logand (Rory Culkin). Gabriel decides to contact Pete and soon develops a relationship with him and his mother Donna (Toni Collette). Everything seems fine, until Jess points out to Gabriel that Pete and his mother sound a lot alike.
Soon, Gabriel finds himself on a quest to discover if Pete in fact does exist. There are many twists and turns a long the way, but eventually The Night Listener does it's best to wrap up the events of what is actually a story based on true events.
Director Patrick Stettner is shown before this scene and explains why it was deleted. In it, Gabriel comes home to find Donna in his house. While I think it is certainly possible that something like this could have happened, I think everything after this scene would have been anti-climatic. This movie works because it doesn't fall into the trap of typical psychological thrillers. We know that there is a problem with these characters, but the story never seems betrayed by unnecessary theatrics.
The Night Listener Revealed
This "making of" examines the subject matter of this film as well as the real life story on which it is based. We hear from the director as well as the other actors as they give their interpretations of the events depicted. While there wasn't anything about this segment that really grabbed my attention, I will admit that I think the right approach to this film (in all facets) was taken. What could have been a complex piece about dual identity, is instead a very relatable look at how artists sometimes live too deeply in their work.
Widescreen - 1.85:1. Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions. This movie had that dyspeptic feel that a lot of psychological thrillers feel they need to have. You know what I mean, those scenes where we see our main character walking around the streets of a cold city, with cold buildings, looking listless and docile. Once Robin Williams' character gets something to do, his tone and the tone of the film changes. We are no longer presented this character but are following him, caught up in his journey as we are taking one ourselves within the framework of this film.
Dolby Digital. The audio on this DVD was fine for the most part. There were a few scenes where I felt I had to turn things up to excessively loud volumes (and I even put the subtitles on a few times), but other than that everything seemed alright. I also don't have the greatest sound setup on my TV (there's only one speaker), so I was essentially getting the entire mix played in a way that I am sure it was not intended.
Robin Williams, Toni Collette and Sandra Oh are presented on this front cover in the typical corners of the picture that Miramax marketing is known for. There is also an ominous picture below them of Robin Williams walking in the woods with some headlights moving up behind him. The back portion of this DVD features artfully done shots from the movie, a description of what The Night Listener is about, a Bonus Features listing, a cast list and technical specs. Sadly, there's nothing about this packaging that really stands out.
While normally I wouldn't take to the somber, almost lifeless quality of what The Night Listener seems to offer, this tale moves at a fairly quick pace and never gets too convoluted. In fact, what was so impressive about this movie is that it was able to piece together all these real life events, and I never felt like this story got away from the people who were creating it. Also, I liked how Robin Williams played the character of Gabriel. In fact, this is a rare performance for him because he is very serious throughout the entire film, and it isn't overt like I felt it tended to be in One Hour Photo. He plays the role of a pained, homosexual man so that the only attention paid to his character is that he isn't much different than the person he is investigating.
The Night Listener is an inspired film that sadly fell under the radar.
The Night Listener was released February 12, 2006.