Adapted from the novel of the same name, and partially based on real events from the lives of author Armistead Maupin and his former lover and co-screenwriter Terry Anderson, The Night Listener casts Robin Williams in yet another soggy dramatic turn, this time as public-radio storyteller Gabriel Noone.
Reeling from a recent breakup, the hangdog Gabriel stumbles upon a long-distance friendship with Pat (Rory Culkin), a mysterious teenage author whose soon-to-be-published memoir details a childhood filled with torture and sexual torment, and Donna (Toni Collette), the boy’s adopted caregiver. As their relationship intensifies, Gabriel begins to question the veracity of the pair’s story — and Pat’s very existence — leading him on a highly improbable quest into the rural Midwest.
Though the action ultimately falls flat as it becomes more and more inexplicable, there are some good things here. Stettner’s visuals are appropriately stylish, Colette turns in an effectively creepy chameleon-like performance, and charming grace notes are provided courtesy of Sandra Oh. Unfortunately, the thinness of the characters and an overall lack of rhythm deflate what could have been a knowing commentary on our post-James Frey/JT Leroy times — or at the very least, an engaging psychological thriller.