Whilst on holiday in Conway, N.H., over the weekend, friends and I saw The Night Listener at a one-screen 50-seat theater called the Majestic. Before it started, the manager stepped in front of the small screen (which looked like a large window shade) and presented his thoughts on the film and the coming attractions. It was cute. Small-townish. A perfect venue for a "Hitchcockian" thriller. We were ready to be scared -- in spite of the roaring dehumidifier right next to the screen (window shade).
When it ended, I was left with one question: How did this movie get made? At best, it's a B+ film school project with the requisite lack of refinement (curious framing, disorienting setups, mismanaged actors). And those actors! This is Robin Williams and Toni Collette -- not some middle-aged never-was putzes you acquire for your student film via CraigsList -- and their performances are misguided to the point of farce. Williams as the melancholic writer who may or may not have a father complex! Collette as a crazy blind woman who may or may not be crazy and/or blind and may or may not have an adopted son who may or may not be imaginary! They have a great confrontation scene in the middle of an icy road. Words are exchanged. A truck fails to break. Collette snaps at her seeing-eye dog. La la la. I sunk into my seat, overcome by embarrassment for the pair.
And this was the featured film on IMDb (and many blog banners) for a while! Who's behind the marketing strategy? If anyone has seen this movie and enjoyed it (or recognized any of its merits), please enlighten me. I will say this: It's almost worth a look for the end title cards, when it tries to relate the ridiculous story to its "real-life inspiration." It's like if, say, The Piano ended with this title card: "This story was based on a real-life woman who started taking piano lessons when she was 14. She is now 28, and quite good, despite the fact that a crazy lover chopped her index finger off."
Plus: The Toronto Star interviews Robin Williams, who is cornering the cinematic market on middle-aged melancholy (and is only zany on awards shows).
Upcoming post: Movie title colonoscopies. You'll see what I mean.
Susan Hayward in "I'll Cry Tomorrow"
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