Directed by Dito Montiel
Robin Williams has a peculiar career in movies these days: all his comedies are lousy, but his dramas are almost uniformly worthwhile. In Boulevard—a drama, thank god—he delivers one of his best and most intriguingly internal performances. (Who knew he could have doubled for Anthony Hopkins in The Remains of the Day?) The man whose comedy is without shame is here utterly without vanity; at a crucial moment he obsessively sobs, “It can’t mean nothing,” and it’s a wonder he doesn’t collapse right on the floor.
Williams plays Nolan Mack, a man who every night drives home to a wife he loves sincerely, until one night he doesn’t. That night he picks up a male prostitute, gives him money, and they go to a hotel. But the relationship that follows is defined not by sex or lust but by need. They sit and talk. The bond will eventually grow strained, but never crude or cheap, at least not to Nolan.
With such a focus on Nolan, it’s perhaps not unexpected that the rest of this world would appear obscurely. Robert Aguire, as the escort Leo, is more symbol than character, and anything he sparks in Nolan is conveyed by Williams’s performance, not his. Kathy Baker is strong as Nolan’s wife, but there’s so much more we want to know about her. This isn't a perfect movie. Director Montiel (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints) goes overboard with the depiction of Leo’s pimp, and then really fumbles at the one-yard line with an “everything is going to be ok” montage. But the strength of Williams’s performance is lasting, and almost enough to forget the news of Mrs. Doubtfire 2. Almost.