Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Night Listener: You may or may not want to see it

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.


kurtis said...

it's like someone crossbred Memento, The Sixth Sense, Insomnia, and Misery and then let it rot in the sun.

Emma said...

What's the Culkin kid like in this movie?