Sunset Boulevard (1950) Review

A struggling screenwriter Joe stumbles across Norma Desmond a former silent film movie star who dreams of a comeback as she had been thrust into obscurity when Hollywood changed in favour of talking films.

This film had been on my list for quite a long time now and I am pleased to say I eventually caught up with it, ticking off a part of the Best Picture Project as well as being a very well talked about and known film. I can understand why after watching it, although it wasn’t quite as I imagined it. The film starts at the end, ok I will elaborate on that to make more sense of it! The first scene of a man dead in the pool is part of the ending, but that is how we get the story told in flashback form from the man himself who ended up in the pool.

That is to be our key and main character Joe Gillis a massively struggling screenwriter who is about to have his car taken off him, the lack of work is sees him ready to give up on his Hollywood dream and head back home away from it all. Then by a chance meeting at her home he meets Norma Desmond a larger than life character, although I think the important and incredible thing the film does is raise the tension and suspense to actually seeing her for the first time it really did feel like ages before we see her for the first time.

Norma Desmond is a truly interesting character to see how your own self worth and love can massively become your downfall. Her house is filled with photographs of herself, like not just the odd couple with someone else in, just herself so you can try to remember her glory days? Which in her head she still seems to be in. While all of this is shown and she has clearly lost or in the process of losing her mind as her former husband and director now acts as her butler is still in the house, pretending to be part of her little world.

One of the most heartbreaking scenes had to be when she went back to Paramount studios and really thought she had a chance at starring in more films and getting back into the world she clearly missed more than anything. When in reality they wanted to use her car not the actress herself, although I don’t think she is ever actually told that fact I am sure that would have pushed her over the edge. It was at that point  I felt pity for her more than anything she really was not on the same planet as anyone else. The thing is though we don’t really get properly told why everyone hates her in the studios and want nothing to do with her at all.

While this is going on Joe has been taken into a place he did not intend to be really as he must live in her house and do whatever she wanted, as we know it is not going to end well for him as he tried to leave. This was the breaking and ending point in which we truly see her lose her mind in front of our eyes. Thinking she is back on set and filming, a truly haunting performance from Gloria Swanson and that final scene really is on another level. She was ready for her close up . . .

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