Patrick Stettner has a remarkable talent for telling stories about trust, narratives, and what happens to our relationships when we lose faith in the truth of what we are told. His new film, The Night Listener, adapted from the Armistead Maupin’s novel, has a few layers of this, oddly leading one review to state, “Although the movie opens with a claim that it was “Inspired by a true story,” I almost wish it hadn’t, simply because the tale is strong and genuine enough to stand on its own without the prop of a true story claim.” “Genuine enough” that the claim to truth is just a “prop”: both strange and quite an endorsement. The film opens this Friday.
Armistead Maupin’s 2000 novel The Night Listener pre-dated the Jayson Blair and James Frey scandals that challenged readers’ trust in dramatic “true” stories. But Maupin anticipated the issue when he personally became subject to a story he began to suspect was more or less than met the eye. An investigation followed, and Maupin ultimately fashioned The Night Listener, a fictionalized version of his experience. The slippery natures of truth, fiction, lies, and wishful thinking now get full play in the screen adaptation of The Night Listener, starring Maupin’s friend and fellow San Francisco native Robin Williams.