HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:74
Watching “Boulevard” left me feeling more than just a bit melancholy, and not just because of the rather depressing subject matter. Seeing Robin Williams in his final feature film, only a year after his untimely suicide left me feeling as if a part of my childhood was passing on. I’d seen the reports, watched many of his old movies as a simple memorial to his life’s work, but knowing that THIS was the last film of his career made me feel as if reality was sinking in. It was like watching the funeral barge fade off into the distance, knowing that it would never return. That being said, that melancholy feeling pairs beautifully with the equally melancholy character that Williams portrays here. A man who’s living a lie for his entire life, desperately trying to fit in and even convincing himself that he was fitting in, only to come face to face with his greatest fear.
Mild mannered Nolan Mack (Robin Williams) is your average guy. He’s worked at a local bank for over 25 year, is up in line for a big promotion, his lovely wife, Joy (Kathy Baker) is interested in taking a romantic cruise, and he has good friends who enjoy his company. The only thing is that he’s struggled to live this simple life for decades and decades. Under the surface is a man who has had a latent attraction for other men. He’s fought it, tried desperately to cover it up, even so much as to be married to a woman for over 30 years. It’s never obvious, but Joy knows that SOMETHING is up, being that they sleep in separate rooms, have separate lives, and do separate things. All of this comes to a head when Nolan meets Leo (Roberto Aquire), a young male of the night (so to speak) whom he becomes attracted to.
Leo and Nolan’s relationship is a strange one. There never is any sexual interaction, which surprises Leo greatly, but Nolan has this sort of longing for acceptance the he somehow finds fulfilled in the young man. Nolan starts to dote on the younger man, helps him try to get a different job than what he does for a living, offers help in his education, etc. All the while keeping his secret hidden from everyone around him. Or at least so he thinks. Being a banker, Nolan has been anything if not dependable for 25+ years, but with the inclusion of Leo in his life, that rock solid veneer starts to crumble. Easily distracted by Leo and his street life problems, Nolan soon begins to attract attention from his closest friends, and unfortunately from Leo’s money hungry pimp as well. All of this leading up to one final conclusion. Who is Nolan Mack, and what will he do with the rest of his life.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=52905[/img]Robin Williams completely makes “Boulevard”. The narrative is solid enough on its own, but William’s silent expressions of confusion and pain completely sell the character of Nolan Mack. I have to wonder how much of Robin’s personal life played into this role, as it is well known that Robin Williams was NOT a happy man on the inside. I have to think that he borrowed a lot of emotions from that hidden pain, as he absorbed so much of himself in the role. Nolan’s silent pain is palpable and haunting. One look into his eyes and you can see the visceral pain behind those orbs. A single glance tells volumes, and the soft words spoken hit with the impact of a bullet. Kathy Baker did her role well, as did Roberto Aquire, but as I said, this is a character drama, and Robin Williams literally took every scene he was in and elevated it to a wholly different level.
Even though Nolan Mack is gay, the movie really isn’t about his sexuality at all. Instead it takes a look at a man who’s covered up his tendencies and his desires all his life. Living a lie that has been eating away at him since he was a child. Like most people who are ashamed of some portion of their life, a great deal of effort has been done to cover that part of their life up, but the results have been devastating. He’s almost convinced himself that he’s alright and “normal”, but it’s not until Leo that he can finally face those fears. His façade has finally started to crumble around him and he has to either come to grips with that fact and movie on, or bury his head deeper into the sand. The real focus of the movie is Nolan dealing with this façade, the wounds that it has etched into his life and his wife’s life over the course of the decades. The ending is a bit stifled and feels almost rushed, but it gets the point across, even if it is a bit awkward.
I come from a different moral standpoint than some people, so I didn’t agree with much of Nolan’s actions, but I do have to say that Robin William’s played the painful character EXTREMELY well. The slow and subtle pain that he portrays is haunting, as you can see everything in his eyes. The loneliness, the sorry, the hope, everything is seen through those melancholy eyes of Williams. You feel everything he feels, you see everything he sees and you care deeply about his character, which is an amazing feat considering how little back story we have of him.
The world of the film does a very good job of creating a cocoon around Nolan. His home life is stagnant, but his relationship with his wife Joy seems amiable. The warm colors pop through in an almost homey way, while the stark greys and blues of the office reflect the cold and hollow existence for him there. When it switches to his outings with Leo, the colors shift to a harsh neon red/orange hue, imitating the harsh reality and the fear that he experiences when he steps outside of his comfort zone. Everything sneaks up on you in the film. It’s a slow and steady pace, but the performance of Williams had my eyes glued to the screen wondering just what he was going to do next.
Rated R for language and sexual content
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=52913[/img]Shot digitally, “Boulevard” has a rather shiny and glossy look that is native of digital photography. It’s never too unnatural, but it does give the film a decidedly odd look. Colors are well done, shifting tones depending on the scenes, with harsh neon reds and oranges for the moments that Nolan is with Leo, to the stone cold and grey/blue colors of his office life. Black levels are strong, with impressive shadow detail, and only a hint of black crush. Delineation is solid as well as a good balance with the contrast levels, giving some very natural looking skin tones (with a mild red push). Fine detail doesn’t suffer in the least, with a complex display of features on the facial detail, all the way down to the individual environmental pieces like his office desk, a dimly lit restaurant, or the soft look of Nolan’s bed at home. I did notice some small moments of color banding in dimly lit scenes, but they were fleeting, leaving an otherwise exquisite picture.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=52921[/img]The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track does the job required of it with excellent results. I feel like a broken record here, but this IS a drama track, and as such it follows a well-worn pattern for the genre. The vocals are well defined in this front heavy mix. Coming through cleanly and clearly, with no signs of distortion of issues with the balance of the mix. Dynamic range is mild, but there are a few moments where a flurry of action kick starts the volume level. One moment Robin William’s is whispering to Leo only to have a full contact altercation with his aggressive pimp, which lights up the soundstage beautifully. Surrounds have good dispersion of ambient noises, ranging from the sounds of traffic in the street, down to the creak of a door shutting, or the groaning of wood floors under the pressure of a footstep. LFE is solid, but never really the main attraction, content to stay in the background and just add some weight to the film’s score.
While the plot device for the story is about Robin William’s character suffering from his latent homosexual desires, the real point of the story seems to be about the consequences of suppressing and lying to yourself. Life can be a struggle to be who you believe you are, and while I may not agree with Nolan’s decision, I can understand and relate to the agony of keeping a secret as deep and dark as your own inclinations hidden your whole life. It stagnates growth, it keeps you in pain, and Nolan Mack learns the consequences of this decision, if only a little too late. The audio and video are excellent for the release, but I am a tad saddened that there is NO extras whatsoever for Robin William’s final film. Good rental.
Starring: Robin Williams, Roberto Aguire, Kathy Baker
Directed by: Dito Montiel
Written by: Douglas Soesbe
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Studio: Starz/Anchor Bay
Runtime: 88 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 1st 2015
Buy Boulevard On Blu-ray at Amazon
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