During his stand-up days, not long before his break-out success as zany alien Mork in television's Mork & Mindy, Robin Williams cultivated a gratuitously fey persona in spoofing homosexuals on-stage. Keeping this in mind only makes his wholly convincing portrayal of a depressed homosexual writer all the more refreshing, a subtlety supplanting exaggeration. Unfortunately, this performance alone can't ultimately carry the too-heavy-for-its-own-good thriller The Night Listener.
In this PG-13-rated psychological thriller, a writer who reads his works on a popular late-night radio show develops an intense but complicated relationship with a seriously ill boy (Rory Culkin)...a child who just might be a figment of a troubled mother (Collette)'s imagination.
Buoyed by an awesome supporting cast (especially Collette as the child's duplicit gatekeeper), Williams' tortured Gabriel Noone kinda sorta holds moviegoers' sympathies as he tries, in a somewhat pathetic Quixotic attempt, to search out this elusive butterfly. A maudlin spirit permeates the movie, however, causing the audience to thirst for an increased dosage of humor or whimsy. The ending also proves problematic. The suspense comes undone in the home stretch when the movie, which (or so the audience is told at the outset) is based on true events, takes a definite stand on the boy's existence...only to repeat the "true events" mantra again and lecture John Q. Moviegoer that the matter was never actually resolved. Huh? Director Patrick Stettner simply should have taken a firm stand and said no more. In truth, this is the kind of suspenser M. Night Shyamalan would have done wonders with-a lost man, a troubled boy, and a Hitchcockian twist.
Bottom line: Bad Night, And Good Luck.