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Review: Boulevard (2015)

Boulevard (2015)

Directed by: Dito Montiel

Premise: A mild mannered banker (Robin Williams) meets a young male prostitute (Roberto Aguire). They begin to see each other socially, forcing the older man to confront the part of himself that he has long repressed.

What Works: Boulevard contains Robin Williams’ last released live action performance. In that respect alone the movie is notable but Boulevard also showcases one of Williams’ better dramatic performances from the late period of his career. Despite his reputation for wild and erratic comedy Williams also had an extraordinary capacity for nuance and filled his characters with rich internal lives. That is the case in Boulevard and Williams’ performance reveals a lot with a subtle gesture or a stutter in a line delivery. His character in Boulevard is a man facing the twilight years of his life, having spent his adult years as a loyal spouse and working dutifully in a bank. He hasn’t had a bad life just a mundane one that hasn’t been especially honest. At this point his last remaining parent is hospitalized and he faces the possibility of a promotion within the bank chain he has worked at for decades. These life events threaten to box him into the life he has lived thus far but a chance meeting with a young male prostitute opens him to new possibilities. The scenes between Williams’ character and the young man played by Roberto Aguire have a lot of tension. The film has a firm grip on the inner conflict of its main character and Boulevard is an excellent example of a movie in which the stakes are nebulous—there is no physical McGuffin to be won or lost—and yet the conflict is entirely palatable. Williams is caught between predictable comfort and unpredictable risk and following what he really wants comes with its own consequences. That’s one of the exceptional aspects of this film. Coming out of the closet stories are typically about how it is bad to be closeted and good to be out. That’s an oversimplified way of looking at it and in Boulevard coming out and living honestly will come at some great cost, especially for a people pleaser like Williams’ character. That conflict is made concrete because of the excellent performances by Roberto Aguire as the prostitute and Kathy Baker as the wife. None of the central characters in Boulevard are bad people; they are stuck in places through a mix of choices and circumstance and try to make the best of their situation.

What Doesn’t: There aren’t a whole lot of surprises in Boulevard. This is another film about a closeted gay man who finally summons the courage to admit who he is to the world and the moviemakers work their way deliberately through the template. The depth of the characters and the excellent performances set Boulevard apart from other films like it but it is nevertheless a familiar story. Regarding the film’s treatment of homosexuality there are two caveats. First, the film has a strange regard for sexuality. Much of the tension in this movie rests upon whether Williams’ character will actually engage in sex with his new friend; he prefers to do nice things with and for this younger man like taking him to dinner and attempting to get him employment. But for a movie about a character embracing his sexuality, the film makes a point to stay away from depictions of sex. Second, Boulevard comes a little late. Mainstream society has generally accepted homosexuality; it isn’t the taboo that it was even ten years ago and so the film comes across as a bit of an anachronism. However, the fact that the character is older, has a wife, and a career gives him something to lose and those specific circumstances give the movie its stakes.  
DVD extras: None.

Bottom Line: Boulevard is a fine drama and one of the notable final performances of Robin Williams’ career. The movie may not be entirely original but it tells this story very well.

Episode: #569 (November 15, 2015)