Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Told from the point of view of a dead man, Joe Gillis (William Holden) retells his tale of becoming the writer for the strange and talented former actress Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Set in Hollywood around the writers and directors of the movie world, Mr. Gillis decides to accept the offer Norma gives him to stay with her and write screenplays for her because he is being pursued by the mob and wants to live! She is washed up and out of her prime but she doesn’t understand that Hollywood has moved on without her. She is possessive, crazy, delirious, emotional and just plain nuts! She almost holds Joe hostage while he writes, but soon a strong friendship forms and he doesn’t mind being around her. That doesn’t last long, however, when Joe begins to sneak out at night to write another script with a new, much younger, lady (Nancy Olson).
Coming in at #16 on the AFI Top 100, it is said that Sunset Boulevard is the closest interpretation of what goes on in Hollywood that has been seen in a movie. From what starts off as an easy-to-follow film noir piece, it slowly turns into a jacked-up love story. Just as Gillis references in the film itself, the character of Norma feels just like Ms. Havisham from Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations. She is the old woman who can not forgive Hollywood for forgetting her as she aged and she plans to take it out on anyone who she can suck into her pit of despair (namely Gillis). The story intrigued me at the beginning with the murder, but as it moved along and I saw it was about a crazy old actress who becomes obsessed with a much younger screenwriter, I was let down. Chinatown and On the Waterfront are 2 noir films on the AFI Top 100 list that lived up to the crime noir feel, but Sunset Boulevard went a little nuts, just like its lead actress. I can’t say this movie was a “bad” film, but it is for a unique movie watcher and only a handful of people can cheer over this strange story. Take a look, see for yourself. Co-starring acclaimed directors Cecil B. DeMille and Erich Von Stroheim.
6/10 Stars – Weird, odd and sometimes annoying, Sunset Boulevard is a letdown after a strong noir start!
Sunset Boulevard is one of the best movies made about Hollywood and the dark comedy aspect offers it an interesting view point that you will either love or hate. My counter part is right, what starts as an easy film noir piece twists and morphs into something completed unexpected. If you appreciate the classic films you will be able to appreciate Sunset Boulevard but it isn’t a movie for everyone. I can see why Gloria Swanson was nominated for an Oscar because she acts down right crazy in this movie and you believe every moment of her insanity to the point really where it is almost too much. Holden is decent but I like him better in Sabrina. All in all I appreciate why this is on the AFI Top 100 and how at one time it was a magnificent film; today however it looses a bit of its luster yet still manages to draw you in for a least a time.
6/10 Stars – The words “that bitch be crazy” come to mind….
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