May 5, 2016


Movie Review: Sunset Boulevard

Score: 10/10

As part of the ‘First Thursday of Every Month’ Classics, I took a stroll down Sunset Boulevard and revisited an old friend, whose star has faded—like the once glistening pavement now marred by the passage of time.

…I’m talking about Norma Desmond.

She once was a silent-picture actress who used to be big. Though she’d defiantly tell you…

“I am big. It's the pictures that got small.” - by Norma Desmond

And so we witness the mental breakdown of a woman trapped in a past she could never go back to; after all, movies have words now.

There’s so much about this movie that is brilliant, including this one shot of Norma visiting the studio. A microphone passes overhead and gently bumps into her, sort of like a nudge, reminding her of something she angrily wants to forget… She is no longer a star and she never will be again.

It’s something that many can relate to albeit in a different way, without the cameras and such. Like working in a job until one day technology has gotten so that your skill is no longer required or you have someone become outdated, making you feel as if you’re being left to pasture.

A stranger comes a knocking

Our window into Norma’s world is seen through the eyes of a man who comes to her house. Joe Gillis finds himself unable to get through to her or unwilling to waste his time trying…

“You don't yell at a sleepwalker - he may fall and break his neck. That's it: she was still sleepwalking along the giddy heights of a lost career.” - by Joe Gillis

(some spoilers)

Joe is a broke screenwriter, who’s creditors are knocking. But without a screenplay that anyone wants to buy, he finds himself at her doorstep.

She’s wealthy and he can smell the money from her estate, which houses just her and her man servant, Max. Thinking he’s got one over on her, Joe convinces her to offer him a job to work on a screenplay that would be her comeback. But ultimately, he plays into her hands.

And so we watch as he ends up trapped in her web with a dark cloud blanketing him. He can’t seem to free himself.

But why does he stay?

It’s the question that makes sense when watching the film. He’s has no money. And aside from a few friends, he doesn’t seem to have much else in Hollywood. As so he believes he only has two options: stay there with her or go back to his small town home and start a new life.

Though, I think there’s something deeper. Her life is one of solitude and being around her taps into a similar feeling. It borders on a psychological issue for him. A sense of helplessness that festers into anger. Anger at himself and in Norma for being Norma. She can’t help who she is because she’s sick. And every minute he stays with her, makes him sick as well.

Until he sees a friend…

Betty represents the light. A wannabe screenwriter, who reminds him of how he used to be—filled with life and hope.

Sunset Boulevard is a compelling, yet tragic tale of two people who get what they want in the harshest way possible. Joe is part of the larger than life story and Norma gets to be in front of the cameras once more.


About Lisa

Passionate about movies and writing. Hopes to someday be a published writer. So when she's not staring at the tube, she's spilling her imagination onto a blank page.

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