"People leave, you know... but with some people it just doesn't seem fair."
It is close to impossible to hear the late Robin Williams speak lines such as this, in his last dramatic role in Boulevard, and not be deeply moved by the unexpected, retrospective irony. That it is a part of one of his finest screen performances, as a flawed man who spent his entire life pretending to be something else, makes it all the more tragic.
Williams plays Nolan Mack, a kind man and doting husband who spends his days toiling away as a banker. One aimless night driving he, literally, runs into Leo (Roberto Aguire), a brooding young street hustler who awakens within Nolan long dormant feelings. Their relationship remains platonic, yet complicated, and Nolan's secrets inevitably spill into his mundane life, threatening his marriage, job and future.
A natural caretaker, Nolan lives in fear of hurting other people, but at the cost of who he truly is. Yet when, at the age of 60, he tentatively begins to explore his true self, the delicate façade of his life crumbles around him, shattering those he holds dear. Williams (who also played gay in The Birdcage and The Night Listener) wholly embodies Nolan; one can feel his lifelong heartbreak in every forced smile and repressed gesture.
Kathy Baker as Nolan's wife Joy, a strong woman gut-punched by reality, and Bob Odenkirk as their cynical college professor best friend, match Williams in excellence. Opposite such acting veterans, relative newcomer Aguire isn't as effective as he should be, creating more of a cypher than a fully fleshed-out character. Regardless, Boulevard (sagely directed by Dito Montiel from a script by Douglas Soesbe) is Williams' show, a fitting, bittersweet swan song for a beloved talent gone far too soon.
MD Rating: B+
Boulevard is now available on DVD and Blu-ray:
Review by Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest, The QuOD: The Queer Online Database and the Out Movie Guide.