Directed by: Patrick Stettner
Premise: Gabriel Noone (Robin Williams), a late night talk radio host, investigates a book written by an abused teenager and begins to question whether the teen exists.
What Works: The film gets off to a good start with Robin Williams playing a quieter and more internal character than anything he has done before. There is the start of two interesting relationships: one between Gabriel and the young author (Rory Culkin) and another between Gabriel and his estranged lover (Bobby Cannavale). As one relationship grows closer the other is more strained and this sets up the audience and the narrative for some heartbreaking fallout.
What Doesn’t: Unfortunately The Night Listener goes awry about halfway through. The biggest problem is that the film establishes the author as a real person in the beginning and so the mystery is confusing and film’s sense of narrative logic is not coherent. The Night Listener also has a lot of loose strands. Characters come in and out for no particular reason, most notably John Cullum as Gabriel’s father. As the film enters its final act, the story is not building up to anything and the ending is flat.
Bottom Line: The Night Listener has some strong elements going for it, but ultimately it’s not sure exactly what story it trying to tell, as though two halves of two separate films had been cut together.
Episode: #107 (August 20, 2006)