Thursday, July 2, 2015

New York Film Critics Series: Boulevard (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

NYFCS Shows Robin Williams’ More Somber Side
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Notable as Robin Williams’ final film, “Boulevard” is getting a one-night advance screening this coming Tuesday night at the Tropic Cinema, the latest entry in the New York Film Critics Series.

Williams died last year, a suicide following a long bout of depression. But this film was already in the can.

One of America’s most popular comedians -- kind of a Jonathan Winters clone, to name his mentor -- he made the transition to serious actor.

I met Williams back in the ‘80s. He was a motor-mouth comic on speed dial, his spot-on impressions shifting every few seconds. He was unbelievably manic … and unbelievably funny.

However, as an actor he often took on serious roles. Aside from the self-impersonation he did in “Good Morning, Vietnam,” he had a hidden a dark side -- revealed in films like “One Hour Photo,” “Seize the Day,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Insomnia,” and “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn.” He won an Oscar for playing a subdued shrink in “Good Will Hunting.”

Sure, he did the zany stuff too -- “Flubber,” the genie in “Aladdin,” a penguin in the “Happy Feet” movies, Teddy Roosevelt in those “Night at the Museum” movies, even “The Crazy Ones” on TV.

But like Pagliacci, Williams remained the archetypical “sad clown.”

“Eighty percent of comedians come from a place of tragedy,” noted Time Magazine when writing about Williams’ death.

“Boulevard” does little to dispel Robin Williams’ somber side. In it, he’s an older man trapped in a marriage of convenience, hiding a secret. As a weary banker, his life comes unglued when on an aimless drive down an unfamiliar street he meets a troubled young man named Leo (Roberto Aguire), forcing him to come to terms with who he really is.

Recent research by Oxford University suggests “the creative elements needed to produce humor are strikingly similar to those characterizing the cognitive style of people with psychosis -- both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.” It concluded, “Comedians may use their act as a form of self-medication.”

Maybe “Boulevard” shows us Robin Williams was off his meds.

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