Can We Talk About? is a weekly series openly wondering, ’What have you done for me lately?’
By now you’ve no doubt realized that God is a woman, or at the very least a gay man, as seven-time Oscar snubbee and serial award show MVP Glenn Close is set to reprise her stage role as Norma Desmond in the film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard.
This is the second time La Desmond will grace the big screen, following in the legendary footsteps of Gloria Swanson who originated the role in the 1950 Billy Wilder film of the same name. Since then, Norma has been the patron saint of drama queens the world over. Who else can make stalking down a flight of stairs after killing a man in cold blood look this elegant?
Get into this shoulder, get into this hand-eye work, get into these homicidal tendencies, henny! Simply put, Norma is drama for drama’s sake—she’ll hurl herself onto her bed in tears, wear turbans unironically and at all hours of the day, and bandy about a dress train like it’s a weapon of mass destruction. And we’re all better for it.
Or worse—honestly, who cares anymore? She’s messy AF and still an icon among icons.
For those of you unfamiliar with the history and the mystery of Norma Desmond, let’s play a little catch-up. She was a major movie star in the silent era, commanding checks on checks on checks and serving face on face on face. She, in other words, used to be big.
Like, you wish you could get away with lines like that. But when you’ve been a star as long as Norma Desmond, the rules of reality don’t always apply. Her light may have faded, but thanks to Max (Erich von Stroheim), her morbidly devoted butler and former director, Norma still believes that she’s it.
She just needs the right vehicle to put her back on top is all!
Enter Joe Gillis (William Holden), a struggling writer who sees winged dollar signs when he looks at Norma. She adopts him as her boy-toy and grooms him to be her would-be Svengali, throwing an unfilmable screenplay about the life of Salome into his lap with instructions to make it a hit and tossing cash in his face to keep him around.
As tragic Hollywood tales go, the relationship between Norma and Joe sours and, in a fit of rage, the demented diva shoots him to death.
Norma is given her final close-up as the news cameras film her being taken away to the mental asylum because mother has officially lost it.
On the one hand, Norma Desmond and Sunset Boulevard is a brilliant, witty, and thrilling exploration on the ravages of fame, particularly on the female psyche; and on the other hand it’s a juicy bit of high camp melodrama and Norma is who every drag queen worth her salt has been emulating and aspiring to for the past 70 years. Alyssa Edwards bought a home on this face alone.
So bow down, bitches, the queen will be up there again, so help us!