Robin Williams’s final film is finally getting released. The movie was screened at various film festivals before Williams committed suicide in August of last year, but after his passing not much was heard about the movie until now. Boulevard sees Williams playing a longtime employee at a bank who finds himself forced to face the ways he’s been deceiving himself for so many years of his life, including in his faded marriage.
Boulevard co-stars Bob Odenkirk, of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fame, and character actress Kathy Baker of Cold Mountain, Edward Scissorhands, and countless other great small roles. Odenkirk follows Williams into comedic-actor-shifting-gears-into-drama territory here as the main character’s best friend, someone who can see his friend’s struggles and attempts to give advice in the incredibly difficult situation.
In Boulevard, Williams’s character Nolan begins to question whether he’s truly happy living the same, monotonous life he’s been living for the past 25 years. He’s a devoted husband who loves the woman his wife is, but he’s really a gay man living in a marriage of convenience. One day while driving on an unfamiliar street, Nolan makes the choice to change his life. He turns his car around, picks up a very young gay prostitute, and they begin an affair.
Williams’s late film work could be a bit hit and miss, and it’s definitely satisfying for fans that this movie looks like it will be a critical hit. It’s not a big awards contender and it probably won’t be seen by too many people, but it will benefit from its billing as “Robin Williams’s last movie” and is a solid note on which to end the actor’s career. The trailer definitely doesn’t shy away from acknowledging that this is Williams’s final performance — kind of, he does have a voice role in Absolutely Anything which comes out in August — as the bleak tone focuses in on a man who’s been living a depressing lie of an existence for fifty years. That message is particularly dark given the context of Williams’s suicide last year.
The movie premiered to warm reviews at Tribeca last year before being delayed in distribution in the wake of Williams’s death, which the dark subject matter of the movie probably had something to do with. Upon viewing the movie at Tribeca, before Williams’s death, The Hollywood Reporter described the movie as “tender but unsentimental” and said that Williams gives “one of the least showy performances of his career.” This shows the significant fact that the actor was still challenging himself in his films right up until the end.
Variety agreed that Williams was still stretching himself here, saying, “this is one of the kindest characters Williams has ever played, which makes his self-imposed turmoil — the consequence of not wanting to hurt anyone, least of all his wife — all the more tragic.” The publication compared the role to Williams’s work in One Hour Photo and Good Will Hunting.
Even more tragic is how Williams’s suicide is coloring this movie about a deeply depressed man who has led an unfulfilled life for fifty years and only manages to change it when it’s almost too late. The optimistic philosophy Odenkirk’s character espouses, “Maybe it’s never too late to start living the life you really want,” makes the movie even sadder within the context of Williams’s death. Boulevard looks like it will be a poignant, bittersweet ending to Williams’s long career in film and comedy.
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