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Gabriel Noone is a late night radio-host in a big city, specializing in spooky tales culled from his active imagination. When Gabriel's lover decides he needs some "space" and moves out, Gabriel descends into a funk until a publisher friend brings him a manuscript written by 14 year-old Pete Logand, a troubled young fan. Pete's story touches the vulnerable Gabriel deeply. Pete was severely abused by his parents and is now under the care of his former social worker, Donna Logand, who has adopted him. Pete is very ill and he and Donna are keeping a low profile in a small town in Wisconsin to avoid discovery by Pete's mother. Gabriel develops an unsettling long-distance telephone relationship with the boy and his guardian. Nothing is as it seems and the skepticism of friends causes Gabriel to become suspicious of Donna and her motives, so he tries to resolve the loose ends by traveling to Wisconsin to confront Donna and Pete. But this effort is largely unsuccessful and we are left ... Written by
The zip code for the Montgomery, Wisconsin address starts with a '2', but all Wisconsin zip codes start with 5. See more »
[Black screen. Sounds of squeaking chair as someone sits down, microphone squealing, paper rustling, and a thump]
[Sound of one breath blown into microphone]
[Unknown woman mumbles]
Yeah, let's try it like that.
[Unknown woman mumbles again]
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The production wishes to thank ... the residents of 95th Street, NYC ... See more »
Just who is that person on the other end of the line, in any virtual relationship that we may happen to engage? In "The Night Listener" a late-night NYC radio storyteller named Gabriel (Robin Williams) talks to, and corresponds with, a 14-year-old sick boy named Pete, and his adult guardian Donna, who live in Wisconsin. But Gabriel's partner becomes suspicious of Pete and Donna, which leads Gabriel to go to Wisconsin to see the boy, to whom Gabriel has grown attached.
It's an interesting and provocative idea. We make assumptions, and don't bother to check them out. If those assumptions are false, then we engage in self-deception. This story questions the nature of reality, in personal relationships carried on over long distances. As a mystery, the film is dark, and when combined with elevator background music, the tone is sleepy and somber.
The problem here is that, although it's an interesting concept, there's really not enough material to justify a full-length feature film. The plot contains many contrivances that extend the runtime, and even then, the film is only 81 minutes in duration. The pace is very, very slow.
Further, while I like and admire Robin Williams as a comedian, he comes across as boring, in serious roles and not just because those roles lack humor. In "The Night Listener", he pouts his way through, all doleful and morose. You get the feeling that he's going to burst into tears at any moment.
As we watch the film, clearly there is some mystery that we do not understand, some puzzle that must be solved. And yet, when we find out what the solution is, it's a letdown. There never really was that much to the puzzle, after all.
"The Night Listener" is mostly a Robin Williams cinematic vehicle, and he plays his part very, very seriously. The script, based on an intriguing concept, just does not contain enough significant plot points to make the film entertaining.
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