Thursday, February 13, 2014
Retro Reviews: Sunset Boulevard (1950)
This Sinister Yet Comedic 'Sunset' Really Shines
Hollywood can be a very tough and cutthroat town, with so many struggling writers and actors hoping for their big break, and much older stars who fade into obscurity once their 15 minutes are up and hope for a shot at the spotlight once more. This film, at the time, was one that Hollywood didn't want to make and understandably so, but it brilliantly shows the harsh realities of a town built on fantasy.
Sunset Boulevard is about a struggling screenwriter named Joe Gillis (William Holden) who one day tries to avoid repossession men looking to claim his car and he ends up in the house of former silent movie star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Norma, who has faded into obscurity is just looking for a comeback and her pursuit of that proves to be disastrous.
What I Liked About It:
First off, the thing I loved the most about this film was Gloria Swanson's iconic portrayal of Norma Desmond. The character of Norma Desmond really embodies the kind of movie star that falls from grace and goes to extreme lengths to be loved by the public and the cameras again. Swanson is comical yet sinister, and vulnerable yet despicable. She was a bit over-the-top, but my god, was she fun to watch. Swanson is truly the heart and soul of this movie and it is easy to see why the character of Norma has reached iconic status. Honestly, even if the film was bad, then the best thing about would still be Gloria Swanson's performance.
William Holden also shines as Norma's partner-in-crime Joe and when watching this film, I personally found myself hoping he would somehow survive this crazy situation his character in. Plus, I liked the scenes between him and Nancy Olson, who plays a script supervisor named Betty Schaeffer, as they both had great chemistry. Erick von Stroheim, who plays Norma's butler Max, gives a rather low-key performance as the film's moral center, but is astounding.
One thing that I thought was very interesting, was how I found it to be quite satirical yet in the end, the film gets very tragic. I don't want to spoil it because I think this is a film that should be seen by many, especially those that want to try and make it big in Hollywood because this film is like a warning for what could possibly come.
What I Didn't Like About It:
Overall, Sunset Boulevard is a bitingly satirical yet realistic and tragic portrayal of a town built entirely on fantasy that features one of the best and most iconic movie performances ever put on screen. If you love to study film, then I would highly, and I mean, HIGHLY, recommend this classic, or if you just love to watch movies, then I would still recommend it. This 'Sunset' really shines!