Ben Hibburd’s review published on Letterboxd:
This is the first time I've watched "Sunset Boulevard" and thanks to pop culture I've basically seen the majority of the film play out in other films and TV shows, such is the impact of this film. Billy Wilder's infamous film noir is a scathing indictment at the way Hollywood treats not only it stars but writers and filmmakers.
"Sunset Boulevard" is a densely layered film that explores a plethora of different themes and stories. On the face of it this film can be taken as a straight noir thriller with a murder mystery at its core. If the film is viewed solely through that lense then it's an incredibly taut, engaging experience. The film flows at a brisk pace and not a single scene lingers or becomes overly cumbersome.
However, as a character piece the film becomes even more engaging, especially when Gloria Swanson's infamous Norma Desmond enters the picture. Swanson is absolutely brilliant as an ageing star from the era of silent pictures. When she has a chance encounter with William Holden's B-picture writer, Joe Gillis, she has delusions of grandeur and plots a triumphant return to an industry that has left her firmly in the past.
Holden and Swanson both have great chemistry and light up the film as two characters that become dependent on each other in different but equally unhealthy ways, which leads them towards tragedy. Without going into spoilers too much the last couple of minutes of this film are some of the most heartbreaking yet haunting scenes I've seen in a film, which leaves a lasting impression on the viewer long after the film has ended.
Underpinning the whole experience is Billy Wilder's fantastic script (which rightfully won him an Oscar), he delves deep into what makes his characters tick as-well as the less than glamorous side of Hollywood. Especially for its era this was a brave move that if done wrong could've easily ostracised himself. Instead he creates one of the best characters in pop culture with Norma Desmond, as-well as a tragic tale that's wrapped in the stunning visuals of film noir. Almost seventy years on this film remains as relevant as ever.