Bonnie's Film Website

Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard (1950); Not Rated
An aging silent film queen refuses to accept that her stardom has ended. She hires a young screenwriter to help set up her movie comeback. The screenwriter believes he can manipulate her, but he soon finds out he is wrong. The screenwriters ambivalence about their relationship and her unwillingness to let go leads to a situation of violence, madness, and death.


Personal Response:

  1. I believe the theme of Sunset Boulevard is how the toxicity of an individual can affect others around him or her. Norma’s dangerous behavior negatively impacts practically all of the characters in the film. She affects Joe’s whole life by moving him into her house, guilting him into staying by threats of hurting herself, and killing him. Additionally, Max is abnormally obsessed and devoted to Norma, and his loyalty to her keeps him from carrying on his career as a successful director. Norma’s bubble of seclusion and delusion makes her extremely harmful to others. Another theme in this film is the self-deception Norma has. She does not and cannot believe that she is not a popular film star anymore. Norma deceives herself into thinking she will have a great comeback. Norma’s toxicity and self-delusion only cause harm to herself and others, ending in the death of Joe, the heartbreak of Betty, the pity of DeMille, the sadness of Max, and the insanity of Norma.
  2. N/A
  3. The filmmaking component that stood out to me the most in this film was the literary element. One of the most memorable things about Sunset Boulevard is Norma’s mansion. This setting creates the extravagant environment where Norma lives. She is in her own bubble of her glory days and wishes to never leave. Another literary component that stood out was the characters. Norma is an old silent film star who has not let go of her stardom. She is completely out of touch with reality and, by the end of the film, goes insane. Joe Gillis, the protagonist, is someone the audience can empathize with and relate to. He is going through an unfortunate dry spell as a writer and wishes to write another hit story. These stood out to me the most because the first things I think of when I view a film are the aspects inside of the movie. I think setting and characters always stand out to me. However, this movie in particular has very lavish and unique characters and setting.
  4. The very beginning of the movie establishes a “family” moment. Practically the first thing the audience sees is a dead body floating in a pool. This moment effectively hooks the audience into the story. And, about two minutes later, the audience realizes that the dead body belongs to the film’s narrator, Joe Gillis. From this moment onward, the audience always has Joe’s dead body on the back of their mind. Who killed Joe? Why did he die? And, as the story progresses, more pieces are put together. However, the ending of the film is still shocking and upsetting.
  5. The scene that struck me the most was after Betty leaves Norma’s mansion. Joe starts to stomp up the stairs in time with the music playing. Norma is thrilled to have Joe return. However, once Joe reaches the top of the stairs, he is finally on an even level with Norma. Norma does not have power over him anymore. She cannot tempt him with money as she once did, and she cannot threaten to kill herself as she once did. Joe is so determined to leave Norma that he is finally at a level where he can pack his things and leave with no regret or pity. Norma cannot handle that though and kills him.
  6. I personally really enjoyed this movie. I sometimes critique old films because many times people just praise them because they have always been a “classic”. However, I truly think this film was unprecedented at its time. The suspense, plot twists, acting, sets, and many other aspects were incredible. I liked how the audience knew Joe died at the beginning of the film, however, it was still sad and surprising when he was actually murdered. I also think Norma’s character is a character unlike one I have seen before. I want to sympathize with her because she is lonely and wants to feel the greatness she once felt, however, I also dislike her because of those same reasons. I hate that she guilts Joe into staying with her because she is lonely, and I hate that she still thinks she is a star. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this film and the many aspects of it that can be critically analyzed.