The late, great comedian and actor Robin Williams had a genius for manic, outsize performances that seemed to overload the room with explosive energy.
Yet, he also had an uncanny ability to play small, to project his remarkable energy inward. In Insomnia and One Hour Photo, he portrayed tragic, broken characters with an implosive intensity that was equally impressive.
Williams, who committed suicide last August at 63, played a similar figure in his final film, Boulevard, a small indie production about a closeted gay man who undergoes a series of crises that lead him, finally, to stop living a false life.
Williams plays Nolan Mack, a quiet, self-effacing mortgage loan officer who seems to have the most stable life imaginable. He has worked at the same Nashville bank for 25 years and seems to get along swimmingly with his wife of 35 years, Joy (Kathy Baker). They cook together, discuss wines and books, and as Nolan's oldest friend, Winston (Bob Odenkirk), remarks, they still seem very much in love.
At first, it appears to be of no consequence to the viewer that Nolan and Joy have separate bedrooms.
Written by Douglas Soesbe (The Wrong Woman) and directed by rocker-author-filmmaker Dito Montiel (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Empire State), Boulevard skillfully establishes the various facets of Nolan's life and introduces the two great crises that have made him question everything: the death of his mother six months earlier, and the rapid decline of his father's health.
One night, driving home from visiting his dad in the hospital, Nolan suddenly makes a U-turn and cruises down the boulevard where the rent boys drum up business. He picks up Leo (Roberto Aguire), a young hustler who seems as shy and quiet as Nolan himself.
Nolan concedes he has no experience with gay sex and insists the two men keep their relationship nonsexual.
Williams does a terrific job portraying Nolan's ambivalence, the mix of fear, guilt, and excitement that grips him and the gradual change he undergoes in the ensuing weeks.
Of course, the liaison with Leo is doomed from the start. But it gives Nolan the impetus to start afresh.