PLOT: A sixty-year-old man suddenly finds his life in turmoil as he begins to face a realization of who he really is.
REVIEW: Watching Robin Williams take on a serious subject was always a treat for this viewer. He ably handled the material when the brilliantly comedic talent tackled challenging and darker roles. And in his latest although technically not his last film - he worked on NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB in 2014 and ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING in 2015 - he takes on very different material than what we are used to. This character piece written by Douglas Soesbe and directed by Dito Montiel explores an older man finally facing the realization of something he has suppressed his entire life. And thanks to a subtle and sweet performance from Williams, BOULEVARD is surprisingly touching at times - and perhaps a little offbeat.
The story revolves around Nolan Mack (Williams) who has a seemingly acceptable life with his wife Joy (Kathy Baker), and a job where he is on track for a promotion. Yet something is missing for Nolan. He and Joy are happy enough yet they sleep in separate beds and spend very little time together. At his job, he works hard yet feels little fulfillment from his career. Something changes however when he nearly runs over a pedestrian, a young man named Leo (Roberto Aguire). Feeling guilty for after the near accident, Nolan offers Leo a ride only to realize that this stranger is a male prostitute. On a whim, Nolan begins a business arrangement with Leo, barely keeping the relationship a secret from his wife. The closer the two become, the more it affects both of their lives.
Tales of men coming out and facing their hidden sexuality rarely revolve around people over twenty. Yet Williams as a sixty-year-old married man discovering himself is surprisingly sympathetic. The reactions of those that know and love him best, including the fantastic Kathy Baker as his wife, help give this story some honesty. As for Leo - while Aguire is good enough in the role - the relationship he shares with Williams Nolan is possibly the least interesting one in the film. Why Nolan would fall for him works well enough, yet the young actor seems a little too clean cut to truly make Leo believably lost. It didnt help that Eddie (Giles Matthey), the man who Leo works for, seems younger and more convincing as somebody who has sex with married guys for cash.
With a slim running time of less than an hour and a half, BOULEVARD seems a bit light on dramatic potential. This is a man who is dealing with an ailing father, an empty marriage and his own self discovery. Yet the story rarely delves into the life altering incidents portrayed as deeply as it could. And while Baker is wonderful as the wife, she isnt allowed to truly express her own loss. Joy is unusually accepting, and while it gives her character strength, it might have been a little more interesting to offer her a moment of realization and doubt. The scenes between her and Williams probably offer the most impact, aside from a couple of nice moments with Bob Odenkirk who plays Nolans best friend. Of course this is Nolans journey, but it may have been a little more impactful to see the weight that Nolans realization plays on those around him.
The best thing about BOULEVARD is to once again witness the depth and subtlety Robin Williams was able to give to a performance. He makes Nolans journey one that the audience can find some truth in. If only a few more chances were taken, and we were given a larger scope of his story, this may have been a more thought provoking tale. However, it is impossible to not at least be slightly taken in because of his work here. As well, the promise of what he would have continued to offer. What a tremendous talent we have lost with his passing. For this, I simply must recommend this unusual film to fans of Williams. It may not be quite as risky as seemingly intended, however it is yet another reminder of just how much heart he brought to so many feature films.