The Night Listener (2006)

PATRICK STETTNER

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB.  USA, 2006.  Hart-Sharp Entertainment, IFC Films, Fortissimo Films.  Screenplay by , , Patrick Stettner, based on the novel by Armistead Maupin.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Podcast:  Bad Gay Movies.  

A radio DJ (Robin Williams) who narrates his absorbing tales over the airwaves on a late-night program is sucked into the life of an abused boy with AIDS () after reading the galleys for the boy’s autobiographical manuscript. After a series of phone conversations with both him and the adoptive mother (Toni Collette) who saved him from the family that peddled him as a child prostitute, Williams begins to have reasons to suspect that the entire story is a hoax. A trip to Wisconsin to meet the young man results in a strange visit with Collette, a blind woman who does not take lightly to Williams’ doubt and the subsequent cancellation of the book that occurs once the editors get wind of his investigation. Is it a case of truth being so unbelievable that such an amazing case would immediately arouse suspicion, or is Williams being confused by the difficulties of his personal life (having just been dumped by his young boyfriend, played by ) and allowing himself to be duped by an obvious lie? This low-key melodrama has the emotional impact of a party story that takes plenty of time to set itself up and then goes nowhere; for all the good it does in spinning a yarn that gets you just as involved as its protagonist does, it ends with very little satisfaction. Collette provides ripping intensity and  is a welcome appearance as Williams’ friend who helps investigate the mystery, but Williams himself is shaky in the lead.  His dramatic scenes don’t work well and he and Cannavale look silly trying to pass themselves off as anything near a couple. Based on the novel and co-adapted by Tales Of The City storyteller Armistead Maupin, and inspired by his own real experience similar to the one in the story.

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