Film review: Boulevard – Robin Williams faces personal demons in last role
Comic actor struggles to make his character, a closeted homosexual trapped in a loveless marriage who falls for a rent boy, appear sympathetic in a film that's too thinly sketched
The final starring role for actor Robin Williams is an uncharacteristically reserved performance in what proves a disappointing swansong for the late comedian.
Best known for his hyperactive turns in Aladdin and Mrs. Doubtfire, or as the man-child hero of Hook, Williams was at his best blending comedy with drama in Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society and The Fisher King. Weightier roles, such as his Oscar-winning performance in Good Will Hunting, or as the villain of Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia, further showcased his versatility.
Boulevard’s protagonist, Nolan Mack, is a closeted homosexual trapped in a loveless marriage. The role provides obvious appeal for Williams, but Dito Montiel’s film often feels like an interesting idea left largely undeveloped.
When Nolan impulsively picks up a rent boy (Roberto Aguire) one night, he experiences a world he has always denied himself. As he proceeds to explore his sexuality, he grows closer to young Leo, which inevitably leads to problems for all concerned.
Williams is restrained and understated, but struggles to make Nolan (rather than merely his circumstances) genuinely sympathetic. Bob Odenkirk is better as Nolan’s best friend, a fun-loving college professor dating a former student, but Aguire and Kathy Baker, as Nolan’s ever-patient wife, are given little opportunity to impress in thinly sketched roles.
Boulevard does end on a relatively optimistic note, but fails to provide any real insight along the way. Ultimately, the film serves as little more than a tragic reminder that Williams was rather less successful escaping his own personal demons.
Boulevard opens on October 29