Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"Boulevard": A study of an older heterosexually married gay man leading a double life, and unraveling (Robin Williams's last film. almost)

There is a critical scene in “Boulevard”, almost Robin Williams’s last film, where the wife Joy (Kathy Baker) tells Nolan Mack (Robin Williams) that she had married him close to three decades before because she didn’t want to have to stay in the real world.
Maybe that line encapsulates the whole of homophobia for past generations.  If the only morally and socially acceptable outlet for male sexuality was going to be marriage (open to procreation), then the idea of staying together and “interested” in one spouse for life could work for everyone.  And everyone could find someone.  And women, in the past, could be shielded from the business or real combat of the “real world” and concentrate on children.
But I don’t recall that this couple, however dedicated, has children.  Joy is slowly beginning to accept that her husband has another side.  Nolan's 90-year-old father is close to death in a nursing home, but that provides a convenient excuse for some of his absence from home, not an existential problem itself.  He also gets to confront his father that he is gay at the end of the father's life. 

Nolan has worked at a bank in Nashville for 25 years, and his boss has approached him about a promotion, to make him a manager.  The interview will be a sit down dinner with the wives at another executive’s home.  Yup, that’s how people used to do things.  I had glancing blows with that life myself.
But one night, as Nolan is driving downtown, a young male hustler Leo (Roberto Aguire) deliberately steps in the path of his slow moving car.  The ensuing “accident” leads the kindly Nolan into an intimate encounter, and then a series of them, in motel rooms.  Nolan has enough money to pay for anything.   Nolan is more interested in just looking at Leo and touching and cuddling with him than with actual genital sex.  Leo’s slender body offers an absolutely hairless chest, although the makeup is a little sloppy (it looks shaved in a couple scenes).  Nolan gets to see all of his fantasies, as if this aspect of his life could be kept totally separate from marriage.
Nolan starts getting harassed by his sponsor (Giles Matthey), and, as in “Hustle and Flow”, indeed “it’s hard out here for a pimp.”  When Nolan tries to intervene, complications occur and  Nolan’s double life unravels.
There was a period in my own life, in the early 70s, of heterosexual dating, and I wondered if this character could have been me in an alternate universe. By coincidence, the short story “The Ocelot the Way He Is”, in my “DADT-III” book, has a lead character named Nolan”, but with very different motives.  Remember, Nolan is also the first name of a popular bisexual techie (played by Gabriel Mann) in ABC’s “Revenge”. 
Leo seems to have a lot of decency, and might have been a “successful” gay man himself if raised in a more supportive environment.  He does wrong only when he has to, for survival.  This aspect of the movie seems like a political statement about economic and social inequality (even among whites), not just homophobia.

The name of the movie seems to be a spot in Nashville, but I know it as a major street in Richmond, VA.  Much of the outdoor scenery resembles Broad Street west of downtown in Richmond. But the credits say, Nashville.
The film is playing at the West End Cinema in Washington, which re-opened July 17 under Landmark Theaters.  The theater is being renovated one auditorium at a time.  The projection quality had improved.
The film is distributed by Starz (formerly using Overture Films as a brand), which doesn’t seem to have an official site. Landmark’s site for it is here
Pictures: State capitol of TN in Nashville, and general downtown, my trip, 2014.

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