Boulevard (★★★ Empire Review)

boulevardsquareDriving back from his father’s deathbed, an unassuming bank clerk (Robin Williams) stops to pick up a male prostitute, an event that prompts a re-examination of his life, love and marriage.

It wasn’t easy being a Robin Williams fan in the years leading up to his sudden death in 2014. Although his turn as Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum was fun, it had been more than a decade since the Oscar winner made a truly great movie (One Hour Photo), while films like A Merry Friggin’ Christmas and Old Dogs largely wasted his colossal comedy talents. It’s a bittersweet pleasure, therefore, to report that his final on-screen performance is also one of his best.

Williams is at his most subdued and sympathetic as unassuming Nashville bank clerk Nolan Mack, trapped in a stale marriage to a lonely wife (Kathy Baker), and with an ailing father whose slow death serves as a metaphor for Nolan’s own existential decline. One night, morose after a visit to his father’s deathbed, Nolan spontaneously picks up a young male prostitute, checking into a sleazy motel for what Will Hunting once described (while insinuating his therapist’s homosexuality) as “putting from the rough.” As if lying to his wife and best friend, Winston (Bob Odenkirk, on excellent form), were not challenging enough for this kind and essentially moral man, Nolan soon realises that denying the truth from himself may be harder still.

Stories about middle-aged men making radical life changes are everywhere, from Transparent to Frankie and Grace, and when, on a scale of ‘HBO’ to ‘Lifetime’, Douglas Soesbe’s script veers towards movie-of-the-week, director Dito Montiel (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints) keeps it on track. Like its lead character, it may be quiet and unassuming, but there’s a lot going on beneath the surface.

VERDICT

The late, great Robin Williams brings great nuance to the anguished Nolan’s inner struggle in a slight but sensitive story about a man facing a life-changing choice. It’s a worthy legacy for a beloved, talented and much-missed actor. ★★★

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