Friday, June 10, 2016

AFI Top 100, #12: "Sunset Blvd." (1950)

Movie Stats:
Released 1950 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Billy Wilder
Stars - Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich von Stroheim

Plot Summary:
Washed-up, middle-aged silent film star Norma Desmond (Swanson) hires down-on-his-luck writer Joe Willis (Holden) to edit the script of a movie she hopes will mark her comeback. Von Stroheim co-stars as Norma’s butler, Max.


Bad Stuff:
Not so keen on the hardboiled detective-like voiceover.

Gloria Swanson’s wild eyes made me chuckle at quite a few inappropriate moments.

Good Stuff:
I like that it involved a topic so rarely explored in film, older-woman-with-younger-man, aka the sugar momma scenario. Also, that it addresses financial abuse and emotional manipulation, two additional issues rarely portrayed/acknowledged in film.

[Also SPOILER-y]
The tension is great. The noose tightens around Joe so slowly, and he knows it and yet he feels powerless to stop it. It’s one of those enjoy-it-while-cringing sort of things.

I sort of loved Swanson’s over-the-top, crazy-ass performance, even the wild eyes.

The Verdict:
I was aware of this film, down to knowing the basic storyline and its famous quotes, and yet I had no idea that it was considered film noir! As film noir goes, it’s pretty mild. The plot is easy to follow, and there’s no endless betrayal and re-betrayal. I really like the pacing. The story develops fairly slowly, but not in a way that feels like it drags. There’s not much action, and yet it’s not boring. Really, as I sit here thinking about it, I realize that it’s a very well-crafted film. Swanson’s performance is a little iffy, just on the border of ridiculousness. Other than that, I have no strong criticism. However, I don’t see it as the type of film I’ll want to watch repeatedly. Once was great.

I give it 4 stars.


Patricia said...

I also loved this! And I also do not feel the need to watch it more than once. I loved Swanson's performance. For me, it was so over the top it was fun.

balyien said...

I feel like Gloria Swanson must have had a blast making this. I refuse to read up about it, in case that disabuses me of this notion.