Inspired by the pseudo-vintage vibe of our last pick, Jillian and I landed on the idea of another hybrid month. Don’t worry, this isn’t quite as wacky as Ewan McGregor Vs Pinhead month, though that was frankly inspired.
No, this is classy. This is old movies vs. Christmas movies, preferably combined. Okay, really it’s a very loose theme with no firm rules. We’ll watch what we want obviously, and I hope you enjoy the ride!
But now, to this majestic AF movie choice, which is so fabulous I almost can’t even.
Alright, Mr DeMille. I’m ready for my close up. ~ Norma Desmond
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
A hack screenwriter writes a screenplay for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity.
Joe Gillis is a down on his luck hack screenwriter and unfortunately, he’s now also dead. We know this because he tells us. Yes, Joe narrates his own story (via flashback) and kindly fills us in on what happened the fateful night he lost his life in the swimming pool of Hollywood has-been, Norma Desmond.
Joe’s struggling with his career and also the repayments on his beloved car. One day, while trying to elude a pair of repo men, he drives into the grounds of Norma Desmond’s Hollywood mansion. Norma mistakes Joe for a funeral director and calls him in to deal with a very special situation indeed.
To say that Norma is a piece would be an understatement. She’s Hollyweird to be sure, ever so slightly deranged and as we learn early on via her first exchange with Joe, determined to claw her way back into the spotlight that has long dimmed in her face.
On learning Joe’s true profession she swiftly moves him into the spare room so he can help her clean up her own script for a film she’s written about Salome. A film in which, naturally, she will be the star. Norma, you see, was once a silent movie star at the top of her game but has faded into obscurity as the need for dialogue on the Silverscreen has grown.
Norma’s never-ending cash flow doesn’t exactly encourage Joe to leave the mansion despite his initial reticence, and who can blame him?
It’s worth mentioning here that Norma also has a man butler called Max on lock down and he’s also rather a dominating force in Joe’s new life. Although reluctant at first, the money and the fact Max tells him about Norma’s fragile mental state, persuades Joe to stick around. At times he even seems sympathetic towards the deeply insecure actress.
When Norma ingeniously tricks Joe into attending a New Year’s Eve Ball for one, he realises he may well have bitten off more than he can chew. He’s also got a thing for his friend’s gal Betty, a script reader who has previously been critical of his work (without knowing it was his). While her fiancé is away she persuades Joe to work with her on a new project and he starts to sneak out of a night.
This is easy as Norma’s attention is focused elsewhere after receiving a call from Paramount Pictures. She jumps the gun, mistaking this call for enthusiasm over the Salome script. Really they want to borrow one of her grand vehicles.
Cecil B. DeMille (played by himself) takes pity on the woman he’s worked with on several pictures and hasn’t the heart to rain on her parade just yet, so he lets her believe they’ll soon be working together. Norma is just so happy to be back in an adoring studio setting.
So Norma goes on thinking her comeback is in the can and throws herself into a brutal beauty regime that nearly broke my heart (and also gave me some tips). Joe continues to fall for Betty, Betty falls for Joe and oh, the tragedy! Let’s just say Norma is not one to go without a fight and has manipulative wiles to keep Joe on side. But will it be enough?
Well, we already know how it ends for Joe but what of Norma Desmond, the once-legendary silent movie star who could once say it all with her face? Will she get her moment in the sun again? What became of her previous husbands – and who the fuck is Max and why is he so protective of his mistress? Only one way to answer all these questions, eh?
Fuck me sideways this is a great movie. Truly. I had never seen it before this weekend and I know that’s unforgivable. I am a regular user of “Ready for my close up”, though which almost makes it worse.
Norma Desmond, although technically the villainess of the piece, is a highly relatable character and I felt her so hard. Especially the beautifying montage which really did give me the feels. Ageing is a hard thing to come to terms with but imagine if you felt you only had your face as currency in this life? Her unrequited love for Joe is heart-wrenching too. Look I know she’s manipulative and harsh – and that crazed look! – but it’s all built on a foundation of deep insecurity and nobody is immune to a taste of that every now and again.
I wanted Norma to prevail and was rooting for her all the way. Joe was a heel, a user and an opportunist with no heart and no balls, and I hope he enjoyed his very last chlorine flavoured breath in that death pool, the swine.
Max was played with an intensity that really suited the movie and I relished his own personal tale as it unraveled. Can we also take a moment for Norma’s cigarette holder RING?! That’s the way to do it, Queen.
Please do not be like me, if you haven’t met Norma Desmond yet, do me a favour and get on it immediately. You’ll not regret it at all.
5,000,000/5. Perfect, perfect, perfect.
What did wifey think? Is she ready for her own close-up, or did the pictures get too small? Find out here.