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Author Topic: The Night Listener *spoilers*
Puffy Treat
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Robin Williams portrays a radio talk show host whose long-term boyfriend has moved out, leaving him vulnerable and depressed.

An advance copy of a book written by a 14 year old boy is forwarded to him, telling an allegedy true story of horrific sexual abuse.

He and the boy begin a "phone" friendship...until the day that the ex-boyfriend of Williams' character remarks that the young author and the boy's adopted mother sound almost exactly alike on the phone.

This film is "inspired by true events"...back in the 90s there was a "true abuse" story allegedly written by a 14 year old boy, and the existence of said boy was never conclusively proven.

Robin Williams is okay in the lead role. He has to play a character who's rather pathetic and unlikable...it quickly becomes obvious that he loved his ex-boyfriend more as a source of touching anecdotes for his talk show than for deeper reasons.

Toni Colette steals the show as the adopted mother of the alleged young author. She's disturbing and frightening in a very real, non-Hollywood way.

Still, the film isn't perfect. Far too much of the first hour is spent on the failing relationship of Williams' character. While I suppose it provides context for his vulnerability, it more often than not seems to be there as padding.

The film improves greatly when the focus is on his bond with the phantom author and emotionally troubled mother.

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KarlEd
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quote:
Robin Williams is okay in the lead role. He has to play a character who's rather pathetic and unlikable...it quickly becomes obvious that he loved his ex-boyfriend more as a source of touching anecdotes for his talk show than for deeper reasons.
My take: Robin William's character, Gabriel Noon, was kind of pathetic, but I wouldn't at all say "unlikeable". He seemed to me to be probably like a lot of writers, a little self centered, more observant than charismatic (which is Oscar caliber performance for RW, IMO [Wink] ), and constantly weighing the world around him as fodder for stories, rather than taking things at face value. It seemed to me that he genuinely loved his boyfriend Jess, to the degree he was capable, and Jess himself was not saint. There is strong indication that a great deal of his love for Gabriel was borne of desperation when he thought he was dying of AIDS, and when treatment proved very effective, dropped Gabriel for a younger, more "fun" crowd. He even says as much in one revealing scene. But that said, I didn't think he was a bad person either. I thought there relationship was very realistic, and their feelings understandable and real if less than ideal.

I didn't think the movie dwelled to much on that relationship because the movie was much deeper than its plot. The depth of insight into that relationship was fundamental in understanding the depth and nature of the feelings that motivate Gabriel through the rest of the film.

I thought the movie was unique and deeply interesting for what it had to say about the nature of relationships, and their "reality" - a topic always in some part of my mind as I interact with people at Hatrack. I left the theater thinking a lot about how much or little we actually know even the people we see face to face every day, and how much we can genuinely care for the people we "meet" (in books, film, and online) some of whom we know don't really exist, and probably none of whom really exist in the same way they exist in our minds.

For me, the movie was brilliantly acted, directed, and written. It didn't dwell unnecessarily on any of Gabriel's relationships because they were central to the deeper meaning of the film. It is a good mystery movie (yes, not "perfect" in that regard), but I'll forgive any of those shortcoming because of the deeper subject it also adresses.

Interestingly, I didn't know going in tha this movie involved any gay characters. The preview, in retrospect, seems almost to avoid revealing that fact (perhaps to avoid having the film labeled and treated as a "gay film" which it most emphatically is not). I should have expected as much knowing it was written by Armistead Maupin and was "inspired" by autobiographical events. I was sold on the film from the trailer and only learned it was written by Maupin hours before seeing the film, so when it was revealed that Gabriel was gay it was surprising. When he opened the door and we first saw Jess, I thought he was the "new guy" and was still assuming "Jess" was a woman. Go figure.

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Puffy Treat
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Being self-absorbed and caring more about story fodder than taking moments as they truly are is a trait common to writers?

Well, I guess I need to meet a less admirable, flakier group of writers in my life. Because few of the ones I've met were quite that out of it.


No, I don't think that view makes me any more sympathetic towards Williams' character.

He himself seems to realize by the end that he needed the kid's friendship as a source of validation more than he truly cared about the boy.

"See? This sick, sensitive, dying kid loves me! I'm not that bad a guy after all."

And his ex didn't drop Gabriel. He invited Gabe out, tried to introduce him...and Gabe threw a fit for his boyfriend daring to know people he didn't know. To do things he didn't like to do.

Rubbed me the wrong way. Gabe seemed like a spoiled brat in those scenes, to be honest.

"How dare you not fit the idealized story self I concocted for you!"

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KarlEd
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quote:
Being self-absorbed and caring more about story fodder than taking moments as they truly are is a trait common to writers?
Not necessarily to that degree. I do think writers are more observers, often, and do tend to see life's moments in an abstract way in addition to actually living those moments. I'm just saying that Gabriel has fallen into a trap that is common among his type in varying degrees. I'm not making a blanket statement about writers. I'm talking about how a profession influences people for good or ill.

Jess did invite Gabriel out and the way in which he did so underscored that he didn't understand Gabriel any more than he felt understood by Gabriel. It was a first invitation after the breakup of a long-term relationship. It was an invitation to a (to Gabriel) wild party full of people Gabriel didn't know. It was natural that he felt uncomfortable and maybe even a bit blind-sided. It was insensitive of Jess not to have made explicit what the invitation was and who else would be there. IMO. I thought that scene was brilliant in revealing a lot about both characters, both good and bad, and was subtle in its complexity.

quote:
He himself seems to realize by the end that he needed the kid's friendship as a source of validation more than he truly cared about the boy.

"See? This sick, sensitive, dying kid loves me! I'm not that bad a guy after all."

Gabriel did seem to grow a lot in the movie, which is a good thing. But I think you're being too hard on him. No, he's not without flaws, but I really didn't think he was as whiny and unreasonable as you seem to portray, especially taken in the context of their relationship. They both needed to communicate better, and they did end up on a good note at the end. YMMV.
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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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I thought that the director did terrific job throughout the whole film, thefreakiest scene being in the hotel, when Collete turns to the camera.

Gabriel's backstory was necessary, I thought, because his relationship with Jess was used to show how similar he and Donna were, especially the scene where Gabe can't correctly remember when he first learned that Jess had AIDs. That conversation mirrored the mother's inability to seperate truth from the good story.

I think if I were to view it again, I'd find the script even better.

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