Greetings again from the darkness. The tragic death of Robin Williams last year left a void in the world of comedy, and his absence is also felt on the big screen where his dramatic skills were often underappreciated. His final non-comedic role comes courtesy of a film that is probably not worthy of his talents, but leaves us with a reminder of what a skilled actor he was.
The premise feels at once a bit dated and also timely. Williams plays Nolan, a 60 year old man who works at his comfortable bank job (of 26 years), goes home each day to his comfortable suburban home, to a comfortable marriage to his wife (Kathy Baker) with whom he no longer shares a bed or much of anything else. He also periodically stops off to put a straw in the ginger ale for his near comatose father with whom he has never had much of a relationship. His entire life is a façade of comfort and life lived well enough.
“Are you happy?” That seemingly odd and innocent question from his boss sets Nolan off on a path of awakening. It turns out that since he was 12 years old, Nolan has suppressed his true identity as a gay man. A spontaneous u-turn on the titular Boulevard sends Nolan on a collision path with Leo (Roberto Aguire), a young male prostitute with whom he quickly bonds … through only talking and self-identification.
It’s this awakening that brings a level of modern-timeliness as Nolan’s story is not so different from that of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner who has dominated the recent media with the late-in-life shift in persona. They are sixty-plus year old men who have evidently each lived a lie for much of their lives. It’s difficult for many of us to relate to, but clearly it’s a real thing, and director Dito Montiel and writer Douglas Soesbe capitalize.
The best and most uncomfortable scenes occur with Ms. Baker and Mr. Williams avoiding the issue through years of practice, and also the scenes with Mr. Williams and Bob Odenkirk who plays his long-time friend and confidant. These are three strong actors who work well with each other.
There is really nothing wrong with the film … it’s slow pace designed to match that of Nolan’s life … but the Nolan and Leo segment just never clicked, leaving me struggling with a third of the story. It’s about a man who is totally not comfortable in his own skin, and lives a somber and unfulfilled life right up until the point where he takes a leap. It’s not that he takes a leap, but rather the specific leap he takes that just didn’t click for me. Still, it’s a performance from Williams that is worth watching – in fact, must be watched if you are a Robin Williams fan.