Picture this: A middle-aged man in his 60s driving aimlessly. He drives through a boulevard and suddenly decides that he should make a U-turn. Why does he do it? What was he thinking? What are the repercussions of that U-turn?
I watched the screen preview of Boulevard a couple of nights ago. It was a movie which I had been waiting for: the last on-screen dramatic performance of Robin Williams, king of comedy, who tragically took his own life last year.
Boulevard is not the first time Williams, best remembered and loved for his great performances in comedies ranging from Mrs Doubtfire to Good Morning Vietnam, had ventured into serious drama. Remember serious movies like Awakenings, Dead Poets’ Society, One Hour Photo and even Good Will Hunting? But it will prove to be one of his major triumphs in serious drama, if not for his heart-wrenching performance as the incredibly boring and mild-mannered Nolan, a closeted gay man who suddenly realizes that he cannot live a life of lies anymore, then at least for his contribution to a better understanding and acceptance of the community of married gay men and their struggles with love and desires.
And what courage it must have taken for a gay man or for that matter any man to give up a promotion at work and a well-paying job at a bank which he had doggedly been doing for the past 26 years. What about giving up a marriage with a woman (Kathy Baker) whom he loves and who has supported him all these years?
Audiences to the R21 (gay themed) movie who may be expecting discussion about spring-autumn romance may be disappointed because it doesn’t quite show love developing between the 2 lead characters Nolan Mack (Williams) and the young male hooker Leo (Roberto Aguire) he picks up at the boulevard. Yes, Nolan tries his best to help Leo and gets into big trouble for doing so but the relationship never really develops enough for it to be love.
If audiences are expecting nudity and plenty of steamy sex, they’re not getting it. Except for one scene when Leo bares his butt, the closest the pair gets into sex is when Nolan hugs Leo but gets rejected by the young man who freaks out because all a hooker knows about paid sex is well…..sex — he simply doesn’t understand this client who just wants to talk.
But for anyone, gay or straight, married or unmarried, man or woman, the message is very clear. Is it ever too late to make a U-turn? Especially when the U-turn is going to cost you almost everything you’ve lived and worked for all your life.
At the beginning of the movie, Nolan’s boss asks him a question, “Are you happy?” Although his boss was most likely not asking him an existential or even psychoanalytical question, it becomes pivotal to the whole plot. After all, Nolan is ironically married to a woman named “Joy”. But did he have happiness, not to mention Joy? And that becomes the epicenter of the whole story – make a U-turn to find that illusive happiness.
So does Nolan find happiness at the end of the movie? It is really up to the audience to decide. I believe that every decision in life bears consequences. It may not be what you expect but then again, it may.
Boulevard is a memorable parting gift to movie goers from Robin Williams. We will remember him poignantly as the tortured man in search of happiness, perhaps even more heart-wrenching in real life than on reel. And it is a most precious gift to the Williams legacy that he has given to gay men, young or mature, closeted or out, married or single.
Thank you, Robin. We will miss you dearly.
Catch the R21 movie which begins its run in a Shaw cinema (Singapore) on Thursday, 8 October.
For The Octoberman Diaries’ tribute to Robin Williams go to: https://octobermansg.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/the-world-according-to-robin-williams-july-21-1951-august-11-2014/