Dave's Rating:

3.0

It sinks …

Who's in It: Robin Williams, Toni Collette, Bobby Cannavale, Rory Culkin, Sandra Oh

The Basics: A radio host finds himself drawn to a dying boy who may or may not exist. The junior J.T. LeRoy is a 14-year-old who claims to have been viciously abused by his parents and is now dying of AIDS. But what's the truth? And does it matter? And will the movie be able to save itself from its own plot holes? That's the real question.

What's the Deal? Now that the LeRoy scandal and the James Frey mess are behind us, it's fascinating to see a movie based on a similar real-life story. It happened to Tales of the City novelist Armistead Maupin with a teenage memoirist who never really existed: "Anthony Johnson," the pen name of an author who also duped novelist Paul Monette and Fred Rogers (yes, Mr. Rogers!) into contributing forewords to the book. Maupin's experience with discovering the deception became the novel The Night Listener. Read the book. It's better than this film.

Who's Not Bad: I'm always excited when I can say I've seen a movie starring Williams in which he doesn't make me wish he weren't real himself. And here he gives one of his rare understated performances, so that alone makes it worth taking a look at. Collette, on the other hand, is someone I can see in just about anything. But here she's kind of unhinged. So it's Crazy Backward Day.

Pedigree: It's from director Patrick Stettner, who made the ham-fisted indie The Business of Strangers. His instincts take all the subtlety and gentle qualities of what could have been a mournful story of human need and turn it into a popcorn thriller. That's kind of a bummer. OK, more than kind of. It sinks because of this.

Creepy Kid Alert: Rory Culkin, learning from his brother's career to keep it low-key, is unsettling as the possibly fake child.

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