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TGI Paul

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Night Listener

"I know how it sounds when I call him my son. There's something a little precious about it, a little too wishful to be taken seriously. I've noticed the looks on people's faces, those dim, indulgent smiles that vanish in a heartbeat. It's easy enough to see how they've pegged me: an unfulfilled man on the shady side of fifty, making a last grasp at fatherhood with somebody else's child.

That's not the way it is. Frankly, I've never wanted a kid. Never once believed that nature's whim had robbed me of my manly destiny. Pete and I were an accident, pure and simple, a collision of kindred spirits that had nothing to do with paternal urges, latent or otherwise. That much I can tell you for sure.

Son isn't the right word, of course.

Just the only one big enough to describe what happened."

As I mentioned in a recent post, I've been a HUGE fan of Armistead Maupin for well over 20 years now, so I was really looking forward to this movie! I even have a first edition hardback signed by the author! The book was a real departure for him, moving away from the frivolity of the 'Tales..' series and the bittersweet humour of 'Maybe The Moon', and as an Executive Producer along with his partner Terry Anderson I knew he would get the movie just as he wanted it.
If you don't know the story here's a brief intro...
Gabriel Noone, (played superbly by Robin Williams), late night radio broadcaster, currently 'having some space' in his relationship at his boyfriend Jesse's request, receives a manuscript written by a 14 year old boy; a boy dying of AIDS following a childhood of unbelievable abuse. The boy is a fan, a regular listener to 'Noone at Night', and the two soon start a telephone friendship which leads Gabriel away from home and into a journey of doubts and twists.
The movie builds up the tension excellently, as Jesse (Bobby Cannavale) injects more and more doubt as to the boys real identity once he hears the similarity in his voice to his carer, Donna (Toni Collette, suitably manic!).
There are a couple of things that let this movie down for me; firstly, why move it to New York? Maupin is a chronicler of San Francisco and has always been associated with that beautiful city. Was it easier to sell NY to the American movie goers? Secondly, Gabriel never sees the boy, no-one does in fact except Donna and thats where the tension comes from. Does she have a multi personality syndrom? Is it munchausen by proxy? So why show him? I didn't want to 'know' him.
The only answer I can think is this; we're seeing the boy the way Gabriel imagines him, it's just his imagination. As someone who regularly 'jewels the elephant', his ability to fictionalise fills in the gaps. Once you get used to that it kind of works.
In all, I enjoyed it and will go and see it again, if only because I didn't spot Maupin make his Hitchcock-esque cameo! I'm not sure how it'll appeal to people who don't know the book or Maupin as I think there's a lot of stuff in here that only his fans will get; the semi-autobiographical aspect of the movie makes it very interesting for a diehard like me!

Excerpt ©2001 Literary Bent, LLC. All rights reserved


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