In the year and change I’ve been writing for this publication, I have written some negative reviews, the inevitable outgrowth of having to see a lot of bad movies and not having anybody pay me to write opinions different than the ones I have. I’ll level with you – some of them I really enjoyed writing. This one was pretty fun. If there’s any truth to the old saw that critics just love to criticize, it’s that there really is a certain joy, not in tearing down what’s truly good, but in letting what’s really bad really have it.
But there are some times when, even though something isn’t very good, one’s stomach just isn’t in the fight. Boulevard is one of those times. Not just because it’s mostly bad in a really dull, average bad kind of way, but because it is the final (non-animated) film featuring Robin Williams. I loved Robin Williams. Everybody loved Robin Williams, even though, let’s face it, he made some really crappy movies. Boulevard is one of those crappy movies. But trashing it is just no fun.
So let’s get this over with. Boulevard is a really banal melodrama without a lick of self-awareness about a guy living an extremely boring life and who is also secretly gay. He’s played by Robin Williams, who was seriously miscast here; not deliberately cast superficially against type in a way that harnessed our context about Williams to a certain effect, done brilliantly in One Hour Photo. Just miscast as a nervous, uncharismatic, buttoned-up mid-level branch banker who never stood up to anybody, for any reason. His mom just died, his dad is dying, his wife (Kathy Baker) knows something is up but also Bob Odenkirk is mysteriously hanging around also similarly miscast, and then he meets a gay hooker who may or may not have a heart of gold (Roberto Aguire) and the whole thing ends with a dramatic shout scene, a long walk and acoustic guitars. Seriously.
The thing that was really great about Robin Williams was that there was always another Robin Williams to discover. If you’re reading this, you’re probably around my age, which means your first Robin Williams was likely mine: Aladdin. Or maybe it was Mrs. Doubtfire, literally the only movie about purely instrumental cross-dressing; or maybe it was the very underrated Hook. But there was always another Robin Williams to discover. The Robin Williams who could inspire students and geniuses. The Robin Williams who would climb the walls of theaters. The Robin Williams trapped in a terrifying jungle, or trapped in a child’s body, or the Robin Williams who would hide his flamboyant sexuality for the sake of his son’s marriage. Robin Williams could even be terrifying, as he was for Mark Romanek and Christopher Nolan and even in its own blisteringly hilarious way Danny Devito, and that was all in the same year. Robin Williams was a special, unique talent, and I hereby earnestly and straightforwardly encourage you to celebrate his life and achievements by watching any one of the really, really good movies he made, and not bothering to see his last, disappointing one.