“Sunset Boulevard” (1950)

Classic Cinema Review by Wendy

Sunset BoulevardA screenwriter is hired to rework a faded silent film star’s script only to find himself developing a dangerous relationship.

Rating: Passed    Drama, Film-Noir    Paramount Pictures

Starring:   William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim

The movie is in black and white and narrated from the main character’s point of view. Joe Gillis (William Holden) is a struggling Hollywood film writer in urgent need of money and a writing job.  The feel of the movie is very much like an episode out of the Twilight Zone.  After Norma Desmund (Gloria Swanson), the eccentric, retired actress and her servant, Max (Erich von Stroheim) are introduced, I actually wondered if this movie was some kind of spin-off from the Twilight Zone.  I refer to Max as Norma’s servant because that is exactly what he is/does.  He serves her every whim, desire and conjured-up fantasy.  Their relationship becomes even more absurd after learning he was the first of Norma’s three husbands!  Max’s indulging of Norma’s fallacy-world is just as self-serving. These actors both portray crazy quite well!  Their odd affair illustrates Norma’s dramatic ability to disassociate herself from a close bond and devise an entirely different scenario as if they were all just characters acting in a new role.

I appreciated how Joe’s struggle felt realistically portrayed and current to today.  He is desperate for a job or a loan and it is that very desperation that traps him into the strange arrangement with Norma.  He is obviously uncomfortable with Norma, Max and the situation in which he finds himself. Joe is a decent guy who can’t help but have some compassion for the aging actress who is no longer relevant, even when he is utterly frustrated with her dramatic manipulations.

Even though Norma has lived most of her adult life in an opulent bubble, she cannot hide from reality forever.  Eventually her actions go way beyond an acceptable perimeter.  The end of the movie left me sober wondering if our society has evolved in a positive or negative way since 1950 when considering justice, crimes and those who are truly insane.

Wendy’s Rating: 3/6

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