Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

"Very Good"

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool Review


Based on a true story, this stylishly produced British drama centres around two superbly involving characters whose real-life journey doesn't fit neatly into the usual formula. So the film continually surprises us with little details as it recounts a series of events over the course of about three years. Director Paul McGuigan (Sherlock) and writer Matt Greenhalgh (Nowhere Boy) cleverly keep the tone light with big emotional moments all along the way. And it's also a fascinating look at one of Hollywood's more uncomfortable truths.

It opens in 1981 Liverpool, when Oscar-winning actress Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) collapses while preparing to perform in a play. In need of a place to recuperate, she reaches out to her much younger ex Peter (Jamie Bell), and asks to move in with his parents (Julie Walters and Kenneth Cranham). Seeing Gloria again, Peter takes a trip through his memories of their romance over the previous three years. They met in London when he was an aspiring actor, and he followed her to New York and Los Angeles before their relationship hit the rocks. He always wondered why she dumped him, but now he's starting to understand.

The way the flashbacks are woven into the main narrative is ingenious, as Peter literally walks into the past. This offers some powerful glimpses of the interconnections between them. It's not quite so necessary to eventually cut to Gloria's side of the story, although at least that offers a strikingly emotional final piece to the puzzle. Bening enjoyably makes Gloria a vain diva whose underlying insecurity makes her very likeable. Since she refuses to act her age, the gap between her and Peter never feels like an issue. And Bening develops terrific chemistry with Bell, who brings a beautifully understated rawness to Peter that's strikingly truthful. Bell gives a riveting performance that's never remotely obvious. And it's also terrific to see him reunite with Walters 17 years after Billy Elliot.

So despite the cumbersome title, the film is superbly engaging. Between the artful direction and incisive script, there's plenty of wit and romance and never a whiff of sentimentality. And while it never feels particularly deep, the movie is packed with points of resonance that linger in the mind afterwards. It's also a rare film that confronts the way the film industry callously discards actors and actresses who don't fit into the usual moulds. Grahame was once on a more rapid trajectory than her contemporary Marilyn Monroe, but the randomness of fate sent her in a very different direction.



Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Gloria Grahame, as Peter Turner, as Bella Turner, as Jeanne McDougall, as Joe Turner, Jr, as Joe Turner, Leanne Best as Eileen, as Joy, James Bloor as Dan, Tom Brittney as Tim, Peter Turner as Jack, Isabella Laughland as Vanessa, as Fifi Oscard, Joey Batey as Eddie, Jay Villiers as George, Michael Billington as Sam, Tim Ahern as Dr Grace, David Decio as Dr MacPhail, Luana Di Pasquale as Liza Minelli, Rick Bacon as Brian

Contactmusic

Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.