A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie is one of the finest American films ever made, and a must for fans of ruthless black comedy. The humor is too sophisticated and the mood too dark to offer preteens much entertainment, but mature teens will appreciate this cinematic treasure. Some mature themes to discuss after viewing: suicide, fame, the desire to hold on to the past.
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What's the story?
SUNSET BOULEVARD reveals the fickleness of movie fans and the cruelty of Hollywood. In her creepy rundown mansion on Sunset Boulevard, aging silent screen star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) dreams of reviving her long-gone film career. Enter screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden), who owes a lot of money. When the two meet, Gloria sees her opportunity and asks Joe to help her finish a script that will put her back in the spotlight. Young and handsome Joe merely sees a hefty paycheck, and the opportunist eventually becomes Norma's lover. Watching the farce unfold is Norma's chauffer Max (Erich von Stroheim).
Is it any good?
The performances do justice to the ruthlessly witty script. William Holden is a perfect deadpan to Gloria Swanson's Hollywood fright show. Erich von Stroheim is stoically tragic as the butler with an unthinkable secret. Nancy Olson is so sweetly ambitious as the love interest who gets tangled in their sticky web that you'll want to cry out to her, "Run! Run for your life!" All four received Academy Award nominations.
A monkey's funeral. Wind whistling through the organ pipes. Mansion doors stripped of their locks because of the suicide attempts. The details are all so wonderfully morbid; they melt together into a kind of hardboiled Hollywood gothic narrated by a dead man. While it's likely to scare little ones out of their pajama bottoms, a more mature teen and adult audience will find Sunset Boulevard a spectacular and hair-raising movie experience. In addition to being nominated for eleven Academy Awards (three of which it won, including Best Screenplay), writer-director Billy Wilder's film rated a twelve on the American Film Institute's list of America's 100 Greatest Movies.
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