Release Date: August 4th, 2006 by Miramax Films.
The Cast: Robin Williams, Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, Rory Culkin and Bobby Cannavale.
Directed by Patrick Stettner.
BASIC PREMISE: Gabriel (Williams), a late-night radio show host, investigates the identity of a mysterious young boy who frequently calls him.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: The Night Listener starts out suspenseful, but eventually becomes too predictable and contrived. Gabriel Noone works as a host of a late-night radio talk show who lives with his boyfriend, Jess (Cannavale). Soon enough, Jess breaks up with him. During his phase of loneliness and even boredom, Gabriel begins a long-distance friendship with Pete (Culkin), a young teenage boy who is also the subject of a book of memoirs that he reads. As the two continue talking over the phone, Gabriel questions the identity and existence of Pete given how uncannily his voice sounds like the voice of his foster mother, Donna (Collete). The occasionally meandering second act has Gabriel stalking and eventually meeting Donna in Wisconsin with the suspicion that Pete doesn’t even exist. The screenplay by Patrick Stettner, Terry Anderson and Armistead Maupin doesn’t include enough real dramatic surprises to be thoroughly engaging. None of the characters truly come to life. Also, the character of Gabriel seems bizarre, dull and unlikable—especially in his aggressive approach to solving the “mystery”. He even seems a bit insane which is beyond paranoid. Unfortunately, the predictable, contrived second and third acts don’t allow the audience to actually care whether Pete is real or imaginary. Robin Williams seems slightly miscast in his role as Gabriel. On a positive note, Toni Collette gives a decent performance as Pete’s blind foster mother who seems just as shady as Pete. Also, director Patrick Stettner does a superb job of creating a chilling atmosphere with the cinematography, editing and sound effects.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Unfortunately, none.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Often predictable, dull and occasionally meandering.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 3
IN A NUTSHELL: Atmospheric and often chilling with a great performance by Toni Collete. However, the plot gets too predictable and dull.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: VHS/DVD
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