Joe Gills decision to leave Norma Desmond was a long overdue one, putting into consideration, the circumstances and the situation he had been living in. Some however would say that his leaving Norma was an act of betrayal; but was it? The movie kicks off showing a body of a man lying on a pool, who later emerges to be Joe Gills. It takes us back to the start of the scene where he is portrayed as a very desperate and depressed fellow who, out o sheer good or bad luck depending on a critics opinion, finds himself in Norma’s house while running away from car repossession officers.
He is a broke man and Norma, an elderly rich and love-hungry lady takes advantage of this and makes him feel at home, offering him a job to read and do her scripts, a job he hungrily accepts. She clears his overdue car debts and permanently offers him a house under her tutelage; officially becoming a kept man. Norma used to be a great movie star in Hollywood but now her stardom has faded. She however still maintains strange and wild fantasies that she would return to her moments of fame and glory.
The script she is writing, she believes will propel her to eternal fame. She emerges to be a lady of extra ordinary tastes and behavior. This is the situation that Joe has to contend with in his daily activities, it gets worse when Norma falls deeply in love with him, showering him with expensive gifts. Joe dislikes the way she treats him and decides to walk out on her, only to return after Norma commits suicide out of his rejection. Joe is seeing a girl called Betty, with whom they are writing a movie story.
Norma gets mad about it and tries to bad-mouth him, the conflict that ensues turns bloody when Norma shoots him dead after he tries to walk out on her. The movie features around a poor and miserable man, Joe, who gets trapped in the life changing thrills of wealth and luxury, having been plucked out of the helms of death. Norma is a dying breed of Hollywood pioneers who believes in the utmost power of money. She sets her mind to seduce Joe, drawing and trapping him into a life of luxuries. In the end however not even the promise of wealth can contain Joe.
Although Joe is presented as having a deficiency in wealth he is practically ambitious and doesn’t want Norma to stand in the way of his dreams. Unlike Norma, he is strong and doesn’t get drowned to the trappings and entanglements of a high life and we see him struggling to leave her. There are some few reasons that can justify him wishing to leave her, his ambitions not withstanding. Norma has turned out to be a highly manipulative and self-righteous aging lady, a woman who apparently swims in the greatness of her past glory.
This is not the type of a person Joe wishes to be with and despises the way Norma has objectified him treating, him like a toy and assuming that his world revolves around her. This is seen where he tells her something to the effect that he also has his own life to lead. Norma emerges, as a jealous lady who is full of herself, believing no one else is better for Joe than her. This is demonstrated when she calls a girl Joe is eyeing; Betty, and tries to insinuate that Joe is two-timing Betty and Norma, she describes Joe in a bad way that gives an indication that he is a sex-toy.
She is a very possessive lady whose sole occupation is to control Joe’s life without giving him a chance to interact with others or work. She is not happy when she discovers that Betty and Joe had been enjoying themselves together to an extent that they had scripted a love story depicting their relationship. It is these woes and tribulations that lead Joe to make a bold step and try to exit from a relationship that now seems to have chained him.
He wishes to forsake all the riches, wealth and jewelries given to him by Norma and revert to his life; poor but full of dignity and self-respect. He returns all the suits and other adornments saying that he is not the right person for the job (Tim Dirks, 1996). It is in his bid to reclaim his manhood and self-dignity that he loses his life. His death confirms to the audience that he is a self-respecting man who despite the many failings and trappings, still was man enough to walk away from what he believed to be wrong.
There are some however who would criticize Joe for having taken advantage of an aging woman’s sweetness and generosity, enjoyed the luxuries, the walked out from her at the hour of need; and that he in the end got what he deserved. It should however be understood that desperate moments call for equally desperate and rash decisions. Joe was poor and in the blink of an eminent poverty, exacerbated by the fact that his career was bearing no expected fruits.
It was only rational for him to accept what Norma was laying on the table, this he did without any knowledge that his boss would end up falling deeply in love with him. He did not in anyway take advantage of the lady and we see him constantly complaining to her because of the treatment he was receiving. His walking out of riches proves to the audience that he is a principled person and it was in the protest of the mistreatment and manipulations of Norma. Reference: Tim Dirks, 1996. Sunset Boulevard (1950). Retrieved on 06/09/07 from http://www. filmsite. org/suns. html
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