A review of “Night Listener” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for language and disturbing adult situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 22 minutes

 

 

Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by San Francisco’s own Armistead Maupin, this tidy psychological thriller is taut with tension and intrigue.

Robin Williams (another native son) delights as tortured evening radio personality Gabriel Noone, who develops an intense phone relationship with a disturbed teen (Rory Culkin as Pete Logand) while enduring his own romantic fall-out.

Pete is a dying AIDS patient who has written a vivid manuscript about an existence suffered at the hands of abusive parents. Foster mother Donna (Toni Collette) generously provides mandatory physical and emotional support.

Noone revels in the friendship, enjoying the quick wit and self-effacing calm of this young and battered soul. When he reluctantly shares details and voice mail messages with ex-lover Jess (Bobby Cannavale), Jess bluntly asserts that the phone voices of Pete and Donna are one and the same.

A seed of doubt is planted; what does Noone really know about Pete and Donna? Suspicion and cynicism rear their ugly heads, forcing him to take action. Thus begins a harrowing odyssey of discovery as Noone sets out for rural Wisconsin to uncover the truth behind the existence of the mysterious boy and his fatalistic tale.

Fact blurs into fiction with dark consequence. Patrick Stettner’s spare direction confirms that less is more; at a mere eighty-two minutes much is left to the imagination. Williams strikes the perfect balance between dread and resolve and Collette delivers her career’s most sinister performance.

Seamy, sinuous and satisfying.