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The Night Listener

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Maupin's Novel Depended on Mind Mysteries: The Camera Somehow Interferes

    Armistead Maupin's novel THE NIGHT LISTENER is a terrifyingly disturbing examination of a disintegrating mind and the manner in which such a mind deals with needs and reality. It is a stunning work, one in which the reader is never quite sure where reality stops and delusions start. Though Maupin co-wrote the screenplay adaptation with Terry Anderson and Director Patrick Stettner, some of the inherent magic of the story is lost in translation when the camera makes the novel visual. Gabriel Noone (Robin Williams in a fine, understated serious performance), a writer who reads the 'fiction of his life' on a late night talk show, is having a writer's block, due in part to his devastation of losing his AIDS ridden but stabilized lover Jess (Bobby Cannavale), having nursed him for years but now feeling discarded so that Jess can feel life again. A literary agent Ashe (Joe Morton) asks Gabriel to read a galley of a book written by a 14 year old boy Pete Logand ('Rory Culkin') who is describing his years of sexual abuse as a child and his current coping with AIDS in Wisconsin and is under the faster care of a social worker Donna (Toni Collette, once again proving there is no role she can't master!). Gabriel reads the book galley, and is fascinated by a story about a life that makes his own situation seem minor. He receives a call from Pete and subsequent calls from Donna and when he shares the story and events with Jess he is warned of a possible fraud. Does Pete really exist? It seems Gabriel needs to discover the truth and heads to Wisconsin where he meets the blind Donna but is unable to get in to see Pete. Where the story goes form there is important to leave unsaid, as the mystery must be kept intact for the individual viewer. Each of the cast turns in credible performances, not an easy feat when the line between illusion/delusion/reality is so tenuous. One character has been added - Anna (the always superb Sandra Oh) - and it is her analysis of the facts that holds much of the storyline together. The mood of the piece is perfectly captured by cinematographer Lisa Rinzler and music writer Peter Nashel. But credit director Patrick Stettner for pulling performances form Williams, Collette, Cannavale and Oh that represent some of their finest work on film. Grady Harp

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