animaldoctor’s review published on Letterboxd:
Wow, this films' writing and acting talent are incredible here. That's what really stuck out to me in this film: the writing and the acting. Actually, the music and cinematography was also really good, too, but it was the performances and writing of this movie that really kept me invested. William Holden plays a great lead character that utilizes narration in a way that doesn't feel cheap or too expositional, and of course, we can't go without mentioning the legendary performance of Gloria Swanson. At first, I thought that her performance was one that would NOT work today. I thought it was good all the way through, but I thought that in a modern movie, her incredibly theatrical gestures and diction would have made the character feel way too over-the-top. By the film's absolutely chilling conclusion, I realized that was the point of her performance: her over-the-top gestures and speaking demonstrated how close to the edge of insanity she always is, desperate for attention and stopping at nothing to get her way, and the ending of this movie might be one of the most chilling I've ever seen. I think it and Swanson's performance are seriously what brought this movie up a half star for me.
The second piece I really want to talk about is the writing, which is straight up incredible. The writing combined with some of the editing brings some of the funniest and coolest moments I've probably ever heard exchanged in a film. An exchange with a producer about why he said no to "Gone with the Wind," the main character waking up to music in his head as the film's score transitions to one of the characters playing the organ, some of the bombshell lines dropped in this film (including a foreshadowing line about a coffin that misdirects you with the intentions of some of the characters), all of these lines are so well executed, and the cat and mouse game that ensues amongst the two leads is absolutely fascinating to watch. In all honesty, the pacing wasn't completely fluid for me and I just couldn't buy into aspects of a romance that develops in the second half of the movie, but other than that, Sunset Boulevard is an incredibly fascinating look at the decline of a huge star that features great cameos from celebrities of the time, amazing cinematography, and top-notch music, writing, and performances. Gloria Swanson, you made this movie better just by your performance, and that's pretty impressive for a film that is already pretty solid.
Letter Grade: A