Boulevard (2014)

Directed by Dito Montiel

Written by Douglas Soesbe

Starring Robin Williams, Kathy Baker, Bob Odenkirk, Roberto Aguire

Run time 90 minutes

MPAA Rating R

Movie website

IMDb link

“Maybe it’s never too late to start living the life you really want,” says Winston (Bob Odenkirk), the best friend of Nolan Mack (Robin Williams) in Williams’s last live-action film, “Boulevard.”
That’s a sweet, upbeat–and unearned–sentiment at the end of a downbeat film. Can we see Williams’ repressed Nolan bursting out (of the closet) and living the “life he really wants,” whatever that is? Throughout the film, it seems that the character already has much of what he wants –a decent though boring job a loan officer at a suburban bank, with the possibility of promotion to bank manager of another branch, a comfortable home, and, most of all, Joy, an intelligent, undemanding wife (Kathy Baker). Yes, he also wants young men, but not enough to do any more than touch them and give them money.
We get Nolan’s situation right at the film’s opening: he and Joy sleep in separate bedrooms, and while they’re perfectly compatible (in most ways), their relationship is more like that of a brother and sister than of the average straight couple. Joy would like to go on a cruise; Nolan not so much, though he’s not totally against the idea. Joy talks about books and Nolan listens. They don’t quarrel. Once in a while, at Joy’s request, Nolan spends the night in her bed–fully dressed.
And then one night, driving home after dark, Nolan sees a young hustler working the street (the boulevard? of broken dreams?) and offers him a ride. Leo (Roberto Aguire) is cold and businesslike. On learning that Nolan regularly visits his dying father in a nursing home, he asks, “Why do you take care of him?” It’s hard to imagine even the most crass person asking such a question.
Robin Williams’ performance as the tense, buttoned-up Nolan is, as you’d expect, touchingly convincing. But the role brings up painful thoughts: was Williams simply enacting the pain he must have felt that lead him to take his life? That possibility, together with the humiliation endured by Williams’s character, make “Boulevard” tough to watch.
Director Dito Montiel’s previous credits include “The Son of No One,” “Empire State,” and “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.” Screenwriter Doug Soesbe’s earlier films are thrillers such as “Blind Terror” and “Look Again.” It’s puzzling why Robin Williams’s agents didn’t choose higher-profile filmmakers for what turned out to be his last film (aside from the sci-fi comedy, “Absolutely Anything,” which features his voice).

San Francisco,
Renata Polt, a freelance writer and critic, is the translator and editor of A Thousand Kisses: A Grandmother's Holocaust Letters.