Synopsis: A romance sparks between a young actor and a Hollywood leading lady in Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool.
Release Date: January 19, 2018 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Biography, Drama
In 1978, a young British man named Peter Turner struck up an unlikely relationship with Hollywood film actress Gloria Grahame. In 1986, he wrote a book about it, and now, that book has been adapted into the movie Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool begins in 1981 with Gloria Grahame (20th Century Women‘s Annette Bening) collapsing while getting ready to take the stage one evening. She refuses medical treatment, instead reaching out to her ex-lover, Peter Turner (Jamie Bell from Nymphomaniac: Vol. II), in her time of need. It turns out that the cancer that Gloria had beaten years before is back, and the actress moves in with Peter’s family in Liverpool where she can convalesce under the watchful eye of Peter’s mother, Bella (Julie Walters from the Paddington movies). While she’s there, Gloria and Peter drum up the old memories of their relationship and the friendship that has been born from it.
The relationship between Peter and Gloria is what’s at the heart of the movie, and despite the age differences and continental distance, it’s not treated as cartoonishly as it could have been, which is good. The movie is, essentially, about dying, both physically and emotionally, and the last thing the audience needs is a caricature of something that they’ve seen a million times in daytime soap operas. Instead, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool treats its subject matter with sympathy and hope, with love and kindness, showing how Peter and Gloria both provided something that the other needed. And that’s how they were able to survive their breakup with their intense friendship intact.
In the end, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is a character study of a couple who fell in, then out of love, but still harbor a deep respect and affection for each other and support each other in their respective times of need. It’s a quirky little opposites-attract romantic tragedy, with an emphasis on the tragedy part, yet it still manages to be uplifting at the same time. Basically, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is about life and what a couple of soulmates have made out of it.
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is an actor’s movie, and Annette Bening is an actor’s actress. Bening seems to get better with every movie (and she’s already been good for decades). Her portrayal of Gloria Grahame goes from comforting maternal figure to saucy cougar at the drop of a hat, and Bening plays both sides of the coin equally well. She captures the triumph of Gloria’s youth, as well as the heartbreak of her impending death. Gloria is a holdout from old Hollywood who never quite caught on in the post-color era, and Bening is able to inject Gloria’s career frustrations into the character without the audience ever seeing them first hand. There’s a bit of an air of Bening playing herself, or maybe a future version or an alternate reality incarnation of herself. She’s charming and likeable, even when her character isn’t, which goes a long way towards generating sympathy and empathy with the audience. And that’s something that is needed in a movie about a character who is dying of cancer.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Paul McGuigan
- Producer(s): Barbara Broccoli, Colin Vaines
- Screenwriter(s): Matt Greenhalgh
- Story: Peter Turner
- Cast: Jamie Bell (Peter Turner), Annette Bening (Gloria Grahame), Julie Walters (Bella Turner), Vanessa Redgrave (Jeanne McDougall), Stephen Graham (Joe Turner, Jr.), Kenneth Cranham (Joe Turner), James Bloor (Dan), Leanne Best (Eileen), Frances Barber (Joy), Isabella Laughland (Vanessa), Tom Brittney (Tim), Peter Turner (Jack)
- Editor(s): Nick Emerson
- Cinematographer: Urszula Pontikos
- Casting Director(s): Debbie McWilliams
- Music Score: J. Ralph
- Country Of Origin: UK