"Norma Desmond: A Star or a Black Hole"
Though she claims to be a radiant "star" throughout Billy Wilder's eccentric film
noir, Sunset Boulevard, legendary Norma Desmond is more easily compared to a
different celestial body: a black hole, but we'll just call it Hollywood. She, like
Hollywood, has the ability to draw in all kinds of people towards her "beaming"
presence, and then swallows them up with implosive vigor. Desmond's character (her
consumption of those around her, both strong and weak, naÃ¯ve and cynical) is the driving
force of the movie's commentary about Hollywood's relentless (albeit hollow) attempt to
grasp onto immortality through success.
Sunset Boulevard follows Joe Gillis, a screenwriter, as he falls prey to the whims
of both the black hole of Hollywood and Norma Desmond's mesmerizing persona. First,
Joe (William Holden) falls for the cutthroat world of filmmaking and the flavor of the
week mentality that follows all screenwriters. Unfortunately, he's no longer the flavor of
the week and times are tough. Even with the option of a steady paycheck and comfortable
life in Dayton, Ohio, Joe won't leaveâ¦ he can't leave. The idea of getting back on top is
too alluring. Enter, Norma Desmondâ¦.
Once Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) gets her well-manicured fingers into Joe
Gillis, the viewer is easily reminded of how enveloping and contorted Hollywood and its
otherworldly children can be. For just a dash of money to save his car and the opportunity
to wedge into Hollywood again, Joe gives in to personal reservations about a bizarre
situation and agrees to aid a fallen silent film star in her script reconstruction. However,
Gillis realizes that this job opportunity comes with consequences. In his older clothes, Joe
looks like a fish freshly sprung from the water and very...