Billy Wilder - Sunset Boulevard (1950), 6/10

The story told through Sunset Boulevard is outstanding and supremely interesting, yet the film itself does not relay all of the tension and energy contained in the script to its fullest effect. Some of this stems from inherent limitations of bringing a story like this to the screen, but a stylistic choice like Gillis’ narration adds an unnecessary layer of restraint to the experience. The relationship between Gillis and Desmond is a great concept and is executed very well, again in the script, as the conventionality and the symbolic progression of the two characters is masterfully arranged. Add Max, Artie, and Betty Schaefer into the mix and things become even more layered and interesting, something that Wilder would always provide. The portrayal of Hollywood, particularly through Swanson’s character, loses some of its impact with time but deserves praise for its honesty. Still, her intentionally pathetic character becomes unsympathetically piteous by the end of the film and before her final moments which make them less impactful. This moment and many others are again hindered by an overindulgent self-awareness, with perhaps one intermittently practical exception being Gillis, as his self-involvement and reflection are essential to his character. Perhaps at the start of the fifties this brand of mindfulness was new in the world of film but now comes across a tad contrived. Regardless, the layers of messages that comes across clearly through the story such as the ability of wealth to delude and corrupt, the façade of Hollywood as an industry, toxic relational manipulation, and the relativity of honesty are all successful, meaningful examples of great storytelling, giving the film its significance as a great narrative film.