I don’t like using the word-perfect that often, because perfect is almost never seen and heard of, but Sunset Boulevard along with North by Northwest, is about as close to a perfect movie as anyone could ever see.
Great plot about a young almost wannabe screenwriter who at this point is desperate for work, so he can make his car payment. Whose on the run from repossessors and stops off at what he believes is an abandoned house only to discover that one of the top actress’s ever in Hollywood lives there. Which is how Joe Gillis (played by William Holden) meets Norma Desmond, (played by Gloria Swanson) otherwise they probably never meet each other. Joe Gillis, is considering giving up Hollywood and going back to Ohio and getting a blue-collar job. Norma Desmond, hasn’t worked in a while and the Hollywood studios no longer want her.
Norma Desmond, finds out that Joe Gillis is a Hollywood writer, struggling at that and owes three months back rent on his apartment, as well as a car he can’t afford. She knows he needs money, which is what she has plenty of and needs a job, which she has one for him. She’s not working now as an actress and doesn’t have any roles coming her way and decides to write her own script and get back into movies that way. And hires Joe to be his proofreader and to fix up her script so someone would take it and make a movie from it. Joe, is not impressed with the script so far, but believes he can work with it. Still has friends in Hollywood and has one his friends Betty Schaefer (played by Nancy Olson) help him rewrite the script and they work on it together.
Norma Desmond, is lonely and desperate to get back into movies and doesn’t want to live off her royalties and investments. She wants Joe to perhaps help her get back into the movies, but what I at least believe she’s looking for is male companionship and believes her script will get her back into movies. I don’t think it is ever clear that she thinks Joe Gillis, someone who she’s never heard of who can’t afford either his apartment or car and hasn’t worked in a while, is a talented writer and someone who has a future in Hollywood. Joe, needs a job obviously as well as money and I see them as basically using each other to meet their short-term interests. I don’t see them as a writing team that is going to write their own movie together.
Gloria Swanson, has just turned 50 at this point and so has her character in Sunset Boulevard. But Hollywood already sees her has washed up and way past her prime. Gives you an idea of how Hollywood sees the world different at least in the 1940s and 1950s than the rest of us. And in many ways this movie is pretty sad, because it shows how Hollywood treats its stars once they believe they no longer have any use for them and almost treat them like strangers and as people they don’t want to be seen with anymore. Gloria Swanson, is her beautiful and brilliant self now playing someone who s past her prime, but as an actress she still has everything going for her and is still the star of the movie. Bill Holden, is his usual charming and even funny self who mixes in clever humor in a very serious if not dark and depressing, but a great movie.