Sunset Boulevard (1950) Film Review

Sunset Boulevard is a 1950 film about Joe Gillis (William Holden), an unsuccessful screenwriter, and his time with Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), an old silent film star who is still completely obsessed with herself. The film begins in a peculiar way. It is narrated by the character of Joe Gillis and starts off by showing his body in a pool, we know he dies from the start. This is actually my only flaw with the entire film, although it is very minor. I thought it would have made for an interesting twist if we didn’t know, but I could be wrong and the fact that we know the entire time may have helped the film rather than hindered it. Gloria Swanson is the true star of this film. As William Holden’s character has no real money left, he eventually stumbles upon Norma Desmond’s home. He stays with her for the duration of the film as she gradually delves into disillusionments, self-obsession, shallowness, and pure insanity about her previous film career.

This film is truly a strong character study. Quite possibly the best around. We really get into the psychology of Gloria Swanson’s character and her performance does an unbelievable job of portraying it. Right from the start, we can tell something is off. She is clearly obsessed with herself but at first, it just seems like a typical stuck-up film star who only cares about herself. It gives the perception of being normal at first glance. But, as the film proceeds, we realize she isn’t normal. She will go to any lengths to proceed with her disillusionment as much as possible, she wants her glory days back, not realizing she never will. Max (Erich von Stroheim) is Norma Desmond’s butler and only helps with her disillusionment. He keeps it up and allows it to happen. We don’t know why until towards the end, but it makes sense as it reaches the point.

Joe Gillis stays with Norma to fix a script she wrote. He knows it’s horrible, but he has a comfortable place to stay and basically infinite amounts of money. He’s satisfied. We don’t really get extremely in depth with his character, but I’m okay with that. It needed to stay focused on Norma as it did. The movie is masterfully directed by Billy Wilder, as he usually does. John F. Seitz provides the film’s cinematography that gives it the distinct film noir look. I don’t have a whole lot more to say about this film but it truly is a masterpiece filled with multiple haunting and memorable moments.

5/5 stars.


2 thoughts on “Sunset Boulevard (1950) Film Review

  1. Pingback: Il cinema nel cinema: “Viale del tramonto” (1950) | davidemannelli

  2. Pingback: Sunset Boulevard | screengrabsaz

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