Shawn Palmquist’s review published on Letterboxd:
The hype is warranted. This is a film that has earned its right as an all-time classic. Gloria Swanson is unforgettable as a washed up and nostalgia addicted ex-silent film star trying to recapture her past glory. She somehow manages to be tyrannical, funny, manipulating, delusional, endearing, and conceited all at once. The brilliance of her performance though (for me at least) is despite a vast range of unlikeable characteristics, somehow I never hated the character, she retains an ever present sliver of humanity that had me feeling sorry for her despite her antics.
The story itself is brilliant. We start at the end, in which the murder of one of the main characters is shown…then work backwards to show how things led to that point. The film focuses on the relationship between Norma Desmond and Joe Gillis, a struggling screenwriter who just so happens to turn into Norma’s mansion while on the run from two guys trying to repossess his car for non-payment. Things then develop into a relationship of sorts as Joe is suckered into Norma’s life of abundant wealth, but he suffers having to put up with her psychotic obsession with her own fame and her budding love for him.
I’ve only seen two Billy Wilder films so far (this and Double Indemnity), but he is proving to be a director that imbues a vibrancy to his films that keeps them immensely entertaining without sacrificing character development or story. I can’t wait to discover more of his works, as he is quickly proving to be one of my favorite American directors of his time.