Sunset Boulevard Reviews
After a young screenwriter gets a flat tire, he winds up in the home of a once famous silent actor named Norma Desmond and she ensnares him to have him bring one of her scripts to the big screen and to make her famous again.
Old film stars are an interesting topic. Its plot provokes sort of a haunting nightmare for everyone who wants to become a star. Its characters are memorable because of their execution. Norma Desmond is a character who slowly loses her insanity as it is slowly proven that reviving a silent film star isn't exactly the easiest thing to do. The ending shows you just how far she will go and it leaves some haunting thoughts in your head after you watch it. On the other hand though, I did feel that it was a little bit unneeded at first. I didn't feel like it was too necessary but that thought died off quickly.
Joe Gillis is a character that we kind of feel sorry for. He stumbles upon her house on accident and he starts to feel that he's stuck at her house. You really can't spoil the ending since it is revealed to us how the film ends at the beginning but it makes us feel sad for what happens to Joe because he was almost able to go back to his old life. However, I can understand why the movie would choose to end like that because it makes it more clear what its message is and it explains to us more about the meaning behind the movie.
The film's instrumental soundtrack is neither amazing nor bad. It just serves as a catchy soundtrack and it doesn't expand too much more than that. It isn't that impressive but I didn't notice it to be a distraction so I can't say that it diminished the movie's quality in any way.
The acting is great on all parts. Gloria Swanson plays a once popular silent film star who suffers from depression and has made several suicide attempts in the past. Her acting doesn't get too amazing until the final few minutes where she is able to convey several mods at once. However, she does a thoroughly convincing role throughout the movie. William Holden's acting remains above average throughout the film. I can't say that he had a moment which truly stood out from the rest but he is still able to convey an ensnared man who is trying to keep the reality of her fame a secret pretty well. He did a good job also.
For some reason, the most common complaint I seem to have about a movie is that it will have slow pacing which can bring me out of a movie to a varying degree and it can play a part in whether I'd want to watch it again. The issue I have with this movie is its talk-heavy dialogue. Some may not mind this but I grew eager for the movie to pick up its pace several times in the movie. Some movies are able to get around this issue though like "Russian Ark". Although it had slow pacing, it interested me because I love history and art. Also, it had superb cinematography and lighting. Some movies are successfully able to get around this problem. However, I lost much of my attention near the middle of the film because it did not provide a way to make me not mind its slow pace.
Despite the slow pacing though, this movie provides a great look on Hollywood and it can be surprisingly pretty upsetting at the ending (in a good way). I can understand why many consider this to be a masterpiece and I can see why it would be considered to be one of the greatest movies ever. It is a great movie, but it could have been much better if the pacing made it an easier film to watch and enjoy. Despite this though, it's still a great movie which has a lot going for it and it is a must-see if you're trying to catch up on classic works of cinema.
- Amazing Acting
- Fantastic Directing
- Beautiful Cinematography
- Terrific Script
- Brilliant Musical Score
- Very Tightly Edited
- Magnificent Characters
- Interesting Character Studies
- Gorgeous Production Design for a B&W Film
Overall Grade: A+ (10/10)
And then you understand. That's the point. Billy Wilder's take on a darker side of Hollywood is scathing and unrelenting, showing how fame takes its toll on those "fortunate" enough to reach movie star status. Behind the camera, the screenwriters (in this case, down-on-his-luck writer Joe Gillis) are too cynical to craft anything more than an easy buck. To boot, it's all strangely meta: Gloria Swanson, giving one of the most legendary performances in history as Desmond, transitions from silent film actress into a new era of filmmaking, not unlike Desmond hopes to do herself. Wilder is wildly inventive in this regard, and doesn't pull punches when going directly after the business. Instead of making up directors to include in this story, he throws in real names (D.W. Griffith and Cecil DeMille, the latter of whom cameos in a small acting role) to make this savage satire hit as hard as it can. Wilder and Charles Brackett's screenplay draws elements of film noir mysteries, with voiceover narration and murky cinematography, but it's also truly funny. It's that kind of juxtaposition that makes Sunset Boulevard such a masterwork of film: you can't help but laugh at how these things play out and how ridiculous they all can be, but they sit in the corner of your mind and slowly register. And again, you understand. This is very much a horror story.
Wilder stages this with delicacy, but is not shy to allow over-the-top moments, particularly by Swanson giving us the ugliest side of fallen stardom one could imagine. From her facelift to her close-up moment after the murder, we get all we could hope to keep reserved in the belly of our deepest nightmares of lost minds and past-dwelling.
I only wonder if this film feels very removed from those who don't know Hollywood lingo, which dialogue and narration provide an abundance of. Featuring legendary director Cecil B DeMille as himself may not register with the modern audience, but it's significant. He entertains Desmond, horribly and accidentally teasing that her screenplay has any promise, only to reveal the sad truth that he had no other way of handling her politely, and has no intention of making her movie.
The narration is another great tool, providing the attitude and backdrop of being a screenwriter in Hollywood, not taking from the theatric experience of the story coming to life visually. Sunset Boulevard itself will fatefully be the best story Gillis ever tells on film. Desmond's heartbreak is unsettling, unnerving, and an effective lesson about moving on in life.