One-Lane Boulevard


“I dunno, Marty, whaddayou wanna do tonight?”

I finally got around to seeing Robin Williams’ last dramatic role, in the 2014 film Boulevard.  This makes me part of a select few, because not many people saw this stinker.  It had a limited release, primarily on the festival circuit.  Even though it is Robin Williams’ swan song, most people probably found the subject matter too downbeat to seek out.

For those who don’t know and don’t want to know the subject of this movie, or are queasy with adult themes, or are from North Carolina, STOP READING NOW!  It’s probably past your bedtime anyway.

OK, grown-ups time.  I’m not tossing out any spoilers when I say that RWilliams plays history’s most closeted gay man, who, even though he has known his sexual orientation since the age of twelve, has managed to live 48 more years without grasping the basic mechanics of the roles of pimp, hustler, and john.  Sorry, but working 25 years in a bank does not shield you from soaking up a little something of life smarts.  His character even watches foreign films, and yet somehow this is all new to him?  Please.  Was he absent the day they screened Death in Venice?

He also acquires a wife along the way, played wonderfully by Kathy Baker.  She would probably be the main reason to watch this picture, if she was in it more than ten minutes.

But Robin, who is in almost every scene?  It pains me to say he’s just not that great here.  And “pain” is a good description, because he spends the entire movie wearing that tight grimace that we have all come to recognize as an indicator of either a) he is battling his inner demons, or b) being fellated (The World According to Garp).

It’s interesting to me that when straight male actors play a gay role, especially a troubled one, their performance is always described as “brave”.  (See also Tom Hanks in Philadelphia.)  But it needs to be more than “brave”, it needs to be interesting, and hopefully backed up with an original script.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Prepare for the longest 90 minutes of your life, barring a colonoscopy.  Or maybe including one.

OTOH, when female straight actors play a gay role, that’s not considered particularly “brave”, which is more telling of our culture than anything in the film.  For a female character, gayness just doesn’t go far enough to tip the scales to “brave”.  We have to up the ante with addiction, pyschopathy, and/or disfigurement.

Hence, Charlize Theron in Monster.  Or Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin.  Or Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Deep End, Snowpiercer, and probably a bunch I forgot about.  I love me some Tilda Swinton, fake teeth and all, and I don’t care who knows it.

Those are all much better pictures than Boulevard.  Which is sad, because I was hoping Robin would go out on a higher note.  And killing yourself after making this picture is a double downer.  At least Heath Ledger will always be remembered as The Joker, even though he also made that “brave” picture up on thet thar mountain.




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