Jay’s review published on Letterboxd:
| Scavenger Hunt #52 | Task #1 - A film with a primarily red poster. |
"You don't yell at a sleepwalker, he might fall and break his neck..."
As wonderfully crafted and messed up as advertised, Sunset Boulevard is a tour de force of endlessly quotable witty dialog, amazing physical performances, and the creeping sinking feeling of despair as you watch a human being fall utterly apart, ever so slowly. Piece by piece.
On the surface, Sunset Boulevard is about the harsh realities of the transition in film from silent movies to 'talkies', that indeed claimed many a male actor along with actresses, but one would be remiss to ignore the gendered angle in it all, adding another layer of tragedy to this tale of the machine that is Hollywood consuming yet another soul. I think this premise of Sunset Boulevard can be most accurately shown by a man calling a woman 'a million years old' to another man, still working in the industry, who is probably twice her age with zero self awareness and irony. It's a little fleeting moment but it encapsulates the harsh reality of Hollywood for women which, unfortunately, remains largely unchanged some 70 years later. Norma Desmond is in many ways a relic to look upon in 2019, but in an equal amount of ways she's a rather familiar tale to many women of today. 'Middle aged' and might as well be dead to the men around her, constantly looking for younger women to enjoy. Sunset Boulevard takes care to show Norma's discardment as both professional and personal through characters like Joe Gillis, and Cecil DeMille. Her story isn't one of simply not getting the job, it's one of complete and utter abandonment by the male dominated world around her, largely for the sin of growing old. No one character is truly to blame for the ultimate tragic conclusion of Norma's story, rather it is displayed as a societal inevitability for human beings treated in such a manner to come to this sordid end.
The acting and casting in this movie was spot on perfection. Let me just say that William Holden is a fox, and my new crush. But of course, the real star of the movie is Gloria Swanson who plays Norma with such a theatricality that perfectly fits a woman coming unglued. Swanson's past as one of the world's most loved silent film stars is on full display, as her facial expressions and body movements throughout this film are simply stunning. You can feel Norma's agony and increasingly tenuous grasp on the world around her through every movement, every wide eyed stare, every agonized twist of her body. I came into this movie knowing little about it other than the ending scene and the iconicness of this character and let me just say; amazing on both counts.
This movie was fantastic, everything people advertised it to be to me. The fact that so many of the more unfortunate parts in regards to how women past a certain age are treated both professionally and personally are still relevant in Hollywood and in the world at large is perhaps the saddest part of all. We are quick to vilify, to demonize, but the wheels keep churning and chewing up countless Norma Desmonds even still.
Also, now I know the context behind this iconic 'gay on the internet' meme.
So, thanks Sunset Boulevard!
Scavenger Hunt 52 - 1/31