Volume 76, Number 13 | August 16 - 22, 2006

Koch on film

“The Night Listener” (+)

This is a strange, disquieting, and interesting movie.

Gabriel (Robin Williams) is a middle-aged radio host with a gift for telling stories. He is upset that his younger boyfriend, Jess (Bobby Cannavale), is ending their relationship after many years.

Gabriel is given a manuscript by a publisher friend, Ashe (Joe Morton), who received the material by e-mail from the author, 14-year-old Pete (Rory Culkin), who has AIDS. Ashe thinks the book, which describes the sexual abuse suffered by Pete over the years, is a blockbuster and encourages Gabriel to read it. Gabriel too becomes enamored with Pete’s story.

Several plots developed including the frayed relationship between Gabriel and Jess and the mystery surrounding the elusive young writer. Early on the issue is raised as to whether Pete actually exists or if he was created by Donna (Toni Collette), a nurse who claims to have adopted Pete and is taking care of him. Gabriel travels to Wisconsin to visit Donna and track down the mysterious writer. His fascination with Pete causes him serious problems.

The unanswered question when the movie ends is what really took place. Was it real or was the story enhanced by Gabriel for his listening audience? Many storytellers will embellish so as to give their anecdotes more mystery, color and solid endings. With all of its deficiencies, I recommend this film to you. It is different and will hold your interest until the very end. Williams uses his role to display a superb acting style, unlike most of his prior roles where timing and humor were his strengths.

“Jailbait” (-)

This movie, similar in form to an Off-Broadway play, takes place inside a California prison.

Randy (Michael Pitt) has been arrested for vandalizing a neighbor’s car. Having two prior non-violent felony convictions, he is subject to a version of the three strikes and you’re out law requiring the maximum sentence for the third offense. Randy, a very handsome young man, wears a short pony tail and is clearly very introverted.

He is placed in a cell occupied by an older man, Jake (Stephen Adly Guirgis). At first very friendly, Jake’s comments become increasingly menacing, and it is clear that a sexual assault will soon take place. It does, but there is another twist to the tale that you will have to see with your own eyes.

The acting is excellent, particularly that of Michael Pitt, who performed as a sex object in “The Dreamers” for which he received good reviews. Those interested in learning more about cruelty in prisons will find this film interesting and provocative. I found the storyline engrossing yet too limited, and I don’t think it will appeal to the general movie audience or provide them with an evening of entertainment. The film does not have wide distribution. I saw it at the City Cinemas Theater on Second Avenue and 12th Street on a Sunday afternoon, and there was only one other person in the theater. Apparently word had spread to stay away.

“Another Gay Movie” (-)

Nathan Lee’s review of this film in The New York Times was interesting. He wrote: “What follows is a rude, rollicking and exceedingly raunchy attempt to turn ‘American Pie’ into ‘American Quiche.’”

“American Pie” was an extraordinarily funny, albeit raunchy, movie. It was written with intelligence and great humor and was attractive to mainstream audiences. “Another Gay Movie,” however, is not good from any point of view. It is simply trash and so gross that it loses any intended humor.

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