Silent drama by Steve Buscemi starring Tessa Thompson –

In his acting life, Steve Buscemi has certainly mixed things up, finding time for Bruckheimer/Simpson blockbusters, Pixar animation and even Adam Sandler films to avoid being typecast as the ultimate New York indie guy. However, in his directing career, he tends to stick to a particular genre: small, intimate, personal films, such as his excellent 1996 debut. hall of trees, which tells the story of a melancholic loser whose life revolves around a seedy bar where a crowd of loser regulars become his quirky de facto family. Loneliness is a familiar motif in Buscemi’s work, and he excelled at it in 2005. Lonely Jimstarring Casey Affleck as a young man who failed in the big city and must now move in with his parents.

Listener, surprisingly only his fifth film, contains elements of both of these titles, starring Tessa Thompson as Beth, a support worker who lives alone in a huge city that is never named, but in the closing scenes looks very similar to downtown Los Angeles. Beth (not her real name) is a support volunteer who works nights answering calls from people with problems, starting with a former assailant who recently got out of jail after lockdown and finds it grimly funny that he can’t walk anymore. to the store without a mask. The call doesn’t last long, just the first of a series of conversations – unrelated – that Beth will have all night. Some are downright sad, like a man who just told his wife he doesn’t love her anymore, and some are scary: Beth locks the door after hearing from a gay guy who turns out to be a fickle misogynist who posts fake revenge porn online. for fun.

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It takes a little time to get into the rhythm of it all, as it’s not a genre movie per se, and the slightly heightened sense of uneasiness that starts it off is a lonely woman in an apartment that, while filled with objects and knick-knacks, doesn’t feel all that homey. rather assumes that the situation will escalate, as it did in Guilty (better, the original Danish version). Such episodic nature leads to lulls, but this is also a rather bold decision; like Beth, the film is a “night owl” and will probably do better in late, late slots at international film festivals, where its understated craftsmanship will be better appreciated.

However, there are two people who make the film focus. One of them is Sharon with bipolar disorder, played by Alia Shawkat. Sharon confesses her mental illness, and Beth is caught off guard by this strange, alive, but, by her own admission, still pretty crazy person. Representing her true self, Sharon softens Beth for the film’s latest heroine, Laura, a former academic. Voiced by Rebecca Hall, Laura is multi-faceted—melancholy, self-pitying, and, of course, suicidal—but she’s not stupid, and as she releases her grief, she begins to get travel companion vibes from Beth, who talks about herself. her past and, more importantly, her unsteady outlook on the future.

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There are no moments of insight when everything comes together, and viewers will have to immerse themselves in its eerily quiet, twilight mood to get the most out of it (Bucemi certainly adheres to the old notion that the darkest hour is just before dawn). And for all its ticks of contemporary ills, Alessandro Camon’s understated screenplay does succeed in doing what it sets out to do, which is the curious fact that people in big cities are more disillusioned and alienated than ever, although the means of making contact and communication has never been more fruitful. Maybe it’s obvious, but the message still remains.

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