Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool
"Annette Bening plays a different character, raging against the truth, a bitch angel feeding her emotions."

With a title like this you expect five star quirky. It doesn't happen. You get a Hollywood actress with a toy boy addiction dying of cancer in the north of England. Sounds like My Week With Marilyn on chemo.

Gloria Grahame is not a name that trips off the tongue. She was big in Fifties film noir. A cut price Barbara Stanwyck? She was nominated twice for a Best Supporting Oscar, winning second time around with The Bad And The Beautiful. She had a smouldering energy on screen, neurotic, sexy and dangerous. If she had not gained a reputation for being difficult on set, especially in Oklahoma!, she might have taken Hollywood by storm. She was, after all, a better actress than Ava Gardner, Kim Novak or Monroe.

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She's the one who doesn't die in Liverpool. It's a close call. She makes it back to New York just in time. She was 57 when it all went dark. The film, however, involves her relationship with Peter Turner (Jamie Bell), 28, her last lover.

She's in London for The Glass Menagerie when she bumps into him again. They had a fling back in L.A, which was a passionate ride over rocky terrain, all sex and no conversation. Gloria knew scandal like she knew the time of day. She married Nicholas Ray (director of Rebel Without A Cause) and then years later married his son. The tabloids went wacky over The Great Cradle Snatch. When she met Peter she was past her fourth husband.

Now in her fifties she feels age gnawing at her memory. She's in denial about her illness and looks into a mirror with increasing dread. She goes to Liverpool to stay with Peter's mum (Julie Walters) and dad (Kenneth Cranham). It's like a parallel universe as if she's eloped with Charles Dickens. Peter wonders what's going on. Is he her carer? Still her friend.

The film hovers between sympathy for the now and wonder for the why. With the use of flashbacks Gloria's Hollywood is glimpsed, rather than explored. This is, after all, based on Peter's book and therefore he is the one through which the story is threaded and yet we learn nothing about him.

Annette Bening is never believable as Gloria. She plays a different character, raging against the truth, a bitch angel feeding her emotions. This is Grahame's swan song, cut to the bone by the fury of a forgotten talent. For those who remember her in her prime Bening is a disappointment although it is unquestionably a performance.

Isn't that what actors do?

There is a difference between the timing of a perfect dance and an exhibition of technique. One touches the heart. The other touches the floor.

Paul McGuigan's film touches the floor.

Reviewed on: 14 Nov 2017
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A faded romance between a young British actor and an aging Hollywood star is rekindled as her terminal illness draws a veil over the sunset finale

Director: Paul McGuigan

Writer: Matt Greenhalgh, based on the book by Peter Turner

Starring: Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Kenneth Cranham, Stephen Graham, Vanessa Redgrave, Frances Barber, James Bloor, Leanne Best, Tom Brittney, Isabella Laughland, Suzanne Bertish, Jay Villiers, Bentley Kalu

Year: 2017

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

Festivals:

London 2017

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