Sunset Boulevard (1950) Movie Review

She is one crazy old actress…

When a murder took place at one of the houses on Los Angeles’ famous street, the victim narrates the story from the beginning. Joe Gillis is a B Grade screenwriter who is running out of luck (and money). And by turns of event, he ended up at a big mansion on Sunset Boulevard owned by once famous silent movie actress, Norma Desmond, who offered him a job as a writer for her comeback movie based on Jewish myth icon, Salome.

I must say that Sunset Boulevard is one of the few movies that meets the needs of motion picture. You can label it as a drama, noir, a play, character study, thesis or anything you want because at the end Sunset Boulevard is all of the above. The rich screenplay is what fascinates me the most. Writers Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder didn’t only write a good script, they write a masterpiece. How do one’s acknowledged a masterpiece? It’s when all needed qualifications are meets. In this case, Sunset Boulevard meets the qualifications of the drama genre. From the opening credit right till the hyperbolic ending, Sunset Boulevard is made up of unforgettable scenes, fantastic performances and amazing direction.

Director Bill Wilder’s choice on making the movie lesser than two-hour time also plays an important factor in my opinion. When a drama movie runs longer than two hours, it sort of loses its appeal no matter how good the cast or the director are. With Sunset Boulevard’s 110 minutes running time, each scene fits perfectly into the narratives. I don’t feel bored or overly stimulate while watching, everything appears organized, well-prepared and on its proper function mode. This also adds a great value to the hyperbolic ending, where the viewers see Norma Desmond in her most terrifying yet sympathetic form.

The cast made the movie, agree? Gloria Swanson is brilliant as the disturbed Norma Desmond. I think viewers tend to sympathize/remember with a “bad” character more and I bet it’s hard to forget a faded silent-movie actress who lives in her own bubble. The desperation and anxiety surrounding her character is overwhelming. Where else, her obsession towards her own movies is right down terrifying. Saying that, it’s unfortunate that the writers didn’t add a back story to her character, which I think would enhance the character.

The Sunset Boulevard isn’t only Mrs Swanson winning glory as it also helped William Holden to jump-start his career whose previous roles are mostly the typical next-door-guy. I really like his character based on his actions and decision; it somehow felt humane to me. In time of needs, Joe didn’t hesitate when he was offer the job to rewrite Norma’s script, although he knows for sure it won’t lead him anywhere. And later on, when he learns about Norma’s obsession towards him, he didn’t run out of the window and stay hidden.

I have mentioned earlier about Sunset Boulevard’s hyperbolized ending. But the more I think about it, the more I realized the movie’s plot is actually cleverly exaggerated. Yes, the central themes of the movie are obsession and destruction cause of fame. And given the film’s setting choice is indeed Hollywood, what choices would fit better than an overstatement gravitas? I understand if this might be daunting to some viewers (especially those who doesn’t like drama), but ask yourself this: What is the essence of cinema if it isn’t an extravagant drama?


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