“THE NIGHT LISTENER”
The Quest for Truth
Armistead Maupin is an amazing author and his “Tales of the City” books and TV series were one of the best works I have both read and seen. The same unfortunately is not true for “The Night Listener”. It is the story of a gay radio announcer who becomes intrigued by a manuscript that he receives and tells a tale of sexual abuse. The book was compelling and was a real page turner but the movie starring the two wonderful stars, Robin Williams and Toni Collette, just did not give me the same dark feelings that I got from the book. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile seeing and pondering it—it definitely shared a strange atmosphere with the book.
Robin Williams is Gabriel Noone and his radio talk show “Noone at Night” is an intimate look into the life of he and his partner. When the movie opens, Noone is dealing with the issues involved with the end of his relationship with his lover. Jess, his mate, has moved out of the home they shared. Noone is so depressed that he has trouble doing his radio show when a friend of his, an editor, gives him a manuscript to read, hoping that this will live his spirits and give him a jolt of reality. The manuscript is the memoir of a young man named Pete and it relates of how he was sexually abused by his parents and while the abuse continued, he was filmed and used for child pornography. He is now suffering from AIDS and is in the care of a social worker, Donna, played by Toni Collete (who has become one of the most versatile actresses in the business today). Gabriel is taken in by the story and he makes an effort to forge a connection with the child. Donna, however, guards the child and the connection they make is by phone only. When Gabriel relays the story to Jess, his “ex” becomes highly suspicious and feels that the entire business may be a fictional account. Gabriel begins to have his own suspicions and notices that when he listens to messages on his answering machine, he begins to question whether or not Pete and Donna are one and the same person. Donna invites him to come to Wisconsin for Christmas and then just as suddenly uninvites him. Gabriel then decides to set out to see them on his own.
Maupin wrote the screenplay from what was a highly personal semi-autobiographical book. In doing so, he had to change some of it and leave some of it out and in doing so. Some of the suspense that kept the book together was lost. If “The Night Listener” had received the same wonderful treatment as “Tales of the City”, I am sure it would have been a great deal more satisfying. The book solved nothing and kept the reader guessing. What the movie does, I leave up to you to decide when you see it.