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Robin Williams gives us one last cinematic gift with “Boulevard”

2013 TCA Summer Press Tour - CBS/CW/Showtime Party - Arrivals

Throughout his all too brief career, Robin Williams was rightly praised as a comedic genius. He was also feted quite a bit for his dramatic work, but never quite as much as I felt that he deserved. We all know of his tragic passing, but this week he has one last dramatic performance to share with the world in Boulevard, and go figure…it’s one of his best performances ever. Certainly top ten worthy, if you ask me. While it’s incredibly depressing that he won’t be around to share his gift with us anymore, Boulevard is a wonderful swan song for Williams and a reminder of just what a talent he was.

The film is a look at a man struggling with coming out late in life. Nolan (played by the aforementioned Williams) loves his wife, but he’s known all his life that he was gay. This was just convenient and simple, though that wall begins to come down when he randomly picks up a male prostitute. He’s uninterested in sex but in talking freely with the young man, creating a connection he’s never had before. Of course, he has to keep it from his friends and family, but that can only hold for so long. Williams stars, of course, with the cast also including Roberto Aguire, Kathy Baker, and Bob Odenkirk. Filmmaker Dito Montiel directs, while Douglas Soesbe wrote the script. It played a few film festivals and now is coming out tomorrow to potentially blow you away with Williams’ work.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen Williams be as quiet and as tender as he is here in Boulevard. He’s plenty heartbreaking, but he does it without any theatrics, which is something. Even his most dramatic work previously had some small instances of the “Robin Williams” personality shining through, and that was part of the appeal. Here though, it’s a role he completely disappears into, leaving us nothing but the character of Nolan. It makes him an unusual choice for the role, but a perfect one in the end. It likely was a challenge for Williams, but one that he was more than up to the task of meeting. The end results speak for themselves, trust me there.

Along with showing Williams in a new light, this is also Montiel’s best film since his debut A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. Montiel has been making solid movies since then, but this is a change of pace in some ways for him and really gets his creative juices flowing. There’s this melancholy tone throughout that stays with you, even after the credits roll. Some of that I’m sure if due to the lovely words in Soesbe’s screenplay, but Montiel’s direction helps to elevate that, without question. It very much renews the promise that he showed with his initial foray into filmmaking. I can’t wait to see what he tackles next.

In a just world, Williams would be in contention for one last Academy Award nomination. As always, the Best Actor race is likely to be jam packed full of strong contenders, so a Williams nod for Boulevard is a long shot at best, but that doesn’t mean that the nom shouldn’t happen, because it really should. He’s so good here, giving such a full performance, that an Oscar citation would be plenty deserved. Posthumous nominations don’t seem to happen anymore, so if it didn’t happen for James Gandolfini or Philip Seymour Hoffman, it likely won’t happen for Williams either, but I maintain that if we were just looking at performances on the merits, Williams would be in the thick of it later on this year.

For now, we just have Boulevard to treasure, and it’ll be in theaters starting tomorrow for you all to do just that. Montiel’s direction, Soesbe’s writing, and Williams’ acting all combine to make this something very much worth seeing. You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you passed up a chance to say goodbye to Williams in this way. It’s a career capper of a performance, even if we wished that the career would not be capped at this early juncture. Be sure to check this one out folks, as soon as you possibly can. You’ll be really glad that you did…

Don’t miss Boulevard this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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