Robin Williams is back in the spotlight for this week’s Movies You Have Not Seen But Should.
This week’s Movies You Have Not Seen But Should is one of my absolute favorite Robin Williams movies, and is included in a handful of films that I consider to be some of his best, if lesser known, work that I might tackle at some point down the road for our weekly series.
Bottom line: you all know Dead Poets Society, Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, and the ridiculously long list of critically acclaimed films Robin Williams was known for. There’s nothing wrong with the classic films. In fact, some of them can be included in my list of all-time favorites, but that’s not what this article series is for. The studio space that the JustUs Geeks Podcast now calls home was once the most amazing video rental/vinyl record shop, and during its time I came to really trust the advice of the shop owner when it came to film and his recommendations. When this article series was created to be featured on justusgeeks.com, I had imagined it to be something that would be very akin to the conversations that went on inside Top Shelf Records. This movie, and a few other films starring Robin Williams, were recommended to me then, and with his passing this series is a perfect way to honor both Robin Williams and the late great Top Shelf Records.
Honestly, I still can’t get over Robin Williams. I was doing pretty great until Billy Crystal’s amazing tribute to him during the Emmys, and I was reminded of The Night Listener. This film was recommended to me, and opened the door for me to see Robin in a much different and wonderful light: he was much more than Mork, Patch Adams, and a grown up Peter Pan. It’s incredibly easy to gloss over the fact that he was one of the greatest actors of our time, simply because he was, as Billy Crystal put it, “the brightest star in the comedy galaxy”.
What do you need to know about this film?
This 2006 thriller stars Robin Williams (Gabriel Noone), Toni Collette (Donna D. Logand), and Rory Culkin (Pete D. Logand). The supporting cast is pretty stellar as well: Joe Morton (Noone’s publisher friend), Bobby Cannavale (Noone’s boyfriend), and Sandra Oh (Noone’s friend). The director of the film is Patrick Stettner, a relative unknown at the time, who has essentially only worked on one other project since this film.
This film is based on the novel The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin, which is about the real life experiences Maupin had with a young boy named Anthony Godby Johnson. Johnson claimed to have AIDS because of childhood abuse from his parents and friends. Johnson is the author of the book A Rock and a Hard Place: One Boy’s Triumphant Story; however, the question that still lingers is this: does he actually exist?
The IMDB Plot Summary captures it best:
Gabriel Noone is a late night radio-host in a big city, specializing in spooky tales culled from his active imagination. When Gabriel’s lover decides he needs some “space” and moves out, Gabriel descends into a funk until a publisher friend brings him a manuscript written by 14 year-old Pete Logand, a troubled young fan. Pete’s story touches the vulnerable Gabriel deeply. Pete was severely abused by his parents and is now under the care of his former social worker, Donna Logand, who has adopted him. Pete is very ill and he and Donna are keeping a low profile in a small town in Wisconsin to avoid discovery by Pete’s mother. Gabriel develops an unsettling long-distance telephone relationship with the boy and his guardian. Nothing is as it seems and the skepticism of friends causes Gabriel to become suspicious of Donna and her motives, so he tries to resolve the loose ends by traveling to Wisconsin to confront Donna and Pete. But this effort is largely unsuccessful and we are left wondering if Pete is real, if Donna is really blind or if Gabriel is the deranged soul of the story. – Written by Joe Jurca
Why did I miss this film?
Well, to be fair, you might not have, since it did fairly well at the box office. With an estimated budget of $4 million, the film performed well both at home and abroad. Williams was the clear draw for moviegoers, but it did not play very long in theaters. Again, though, this was not a comedy, and it is simply one of those films people tend to forget is a Robin Williams film. Being just a few years shy of 10 years old, and with his recent death, it wouldn’t surprise me if this is the first you’re ever hearing of this film. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t even make the Rotten Tomatoes list of his best films (which…is pretty wrong, on my account).
Why should I see this film?
Easy answer: because it’s Robin Williams, especially if you haven’t ever really delved into his non-comedic roles. His range, his emotion, and the suspense of this film makes this a movie you should see if you haven’t.
Need a little more convincing?
The Night Listener is available on Amazon Instant Video.