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BOULEVARD (review)

boulevardBOULEVARD

Written by Douglas Soesbe / Directed by Dito Montiel / Starring Robin Williams, Roberto Aguire, Kathy Baker and Bob Odenkirk

Nathan: I have this fear of hurting people.

The irony of the aforementioned statement that Nathan (Robin Williams) makes to Leo (Roberto Aguire), a young male hustler that Nathan almost runs over with his car after visiting his ailing father in a retirement home, is that by keeping his homosexuality a secret all his adult life, Nathan has ultimately been hurting himself. Up to that faithful meeting with Leo, Nathan has lived an uneventful life, content with his job as a loan officer but uncomfortable with the promise of a promotion to manage his own branch. Nathan and his wife, Joy (Kathy Baker), co-exist peacefully in their home, decorated in 1960’s kitsch (doilies on the sofa, plastic flowers on the bedroom dresser) where they also have separate bedrooms. The only time we see Nathan animated is when he is with his best friend, Winston (a nicely subdued Bob Odenkirk). Once Leo enters Nathan’s car and the two of them drive off to a motel together though, life will be forever changed for Nathan; though not like you’d think.

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Aside from his Oscar winning role in GOOD WILL HUNTING and, especially in his brilliant performance in ONE HOUR PHOTO, I was never a fan of a more serious Robin Williams. I always found that his interpretations tended to be despondent or gloomy or stiff and mannered – they screamed (to me anyway) “Hey! Look! I’m acting.” In BOULEVARD, Williams is sweetly vulnerable, hitting beautifully nuanced moments, interspersed with scenes of such palpable pain in his eyes that at times it is indiscernible if director Dito Montiel had just pulled that pain out of the actor or if he had inadvertently tapped into the torment that haunted Williams, who ended his life last year. It’s a tremendously modulated performance that must have inspired his co-stars to strive for greater heights. Relative screen newcomer, Roberto Aguire, is very impressive as the hustler. Leo’s stock in trade is sex for money, which Nathan appears not to need nor desire, even when Leo stands naked before him. Instead, he is being paid to have conversations in the motel room or enjoy a dinner at fancy restaurant and their time together is genuinely emotional and beautifully performed by the two leads. Baker must also be commended for her intellectual and histrionic-free job as Nathan’s not so clueless wife.

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BOULEVARD almost succeeds in what it wants to portray – the difficulty of being true to oneself without hurting those around you. And while the dilemmas in each characters’ lives are dealt with compassion and closure, it lacks originality at times. Yes, it’s well-acted and beautifully scored and as his final screen performance, it is a fitting tribute to Williams’ talents, but the film still lacks depth and an innovative point of view.

3 sheep

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