Movie Review: Sunset BLVD

Movie: Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Genre: Drama, Film Noir

Director: Billy Wilder

Writers: Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder

Cast: Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich Stroheim, Nancy Olson

Feature films come with a certain age of their own barring a few which get etched in your psyche as long as you exist. Sunset Boulevard falls in the latter. A 1950 American film noir, Sunset BLVD is a tale of love, dreams and giving up on them.

Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a silent actress after being side kicked by the advent of talkies, lives in a constant state of denial and recluse. Dreaming of a comeback, a term that she hates and prefers a return instead, she appoints Joe Gills (William Holden), a small time struggling writer trying to make his ends meet, as a script doctor. Max (Erich Stroheim), the then director who made Norma a star, is an epitome of love and loyalty. Being her first husband, he chose to be Norma’s butler in order to stay by her side for life.

Norma falls in love with Joe and Joe, out of desperation, continues being her companion only to be shuddered out of his pretentious identity by Betty (Nancy Olson), a script reader and his friend director’s girl. Towards the end of the movie, a heinous crime is committed ensued by complete madness that haunts you for a at-least a night.

Gloria, a powerhouse of talent, has effortlessly brought her larger than life character to life with her magnificent performance. Her flamboyant nature oozes our through her dramatic gestures and a stern voice except for a few instances when she falls weak. She, at one point says, “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” reflecting the illusionary life she lives and the fame and glamour she had once experienced. She has undoubtedly stolen every scene of the film. The transition from a comic performance to being in a fit of rage within a fraction of a second in the Chaplin scene is commendable. 

The dark, witty and cleverly written script coinciding with the gloomy black and white makes it a masterpiece. Had it been made in color, it wouldn’t have been as enthralling. What allures the audience even more is the metaphorical narration by Joe with a slight tinge of dry humor throughout the movie. “Come think of it, the whole place seemed to have been stricken with the kind of creeping paralysis… out of beat with the rest of the world… crumbling apart in slow motion.” justifies the above made judgement.

This queer combination of humor and eeriness makes it a classic film of all time. The closing line of the film, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” seals the deal making it virtually flawless.

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  1. added to the watch list 🙂 Always loved movies, which are about movies… and I think they are generally a haunting theme; have watched Cinema Paradiso, Hugo and all… Can you suggest some more of similar likes?

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