FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL
Before we knew what a cougar was, Gloria Grahame was one. “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” is the bio pic about Gloria Grahame. Grahame was a famous actress of the forties and fifties known as an ingénue in film noir. She won the best supporting actress Oscar in 1952 for the film, “The Bad and the Beautiful”. For those who are not film noir aficionados, they will recognize Grahame as Ado Annie in “Oklahoma.”
“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” takes place at the time surrounding her death in 1981. By the eighties, Grahame’s star had faded and she is dying of breast cancer that she cannot admit to her friends or family. Annette Benning takes on this role in a wonderfully nuanced way. This is an Oscar worthy performance where we get a glimpse of Gloria’s private life as seen through her last lover, Peter Turner, many years her junior.
Turner is played by Jamie Bell, who audiences may recognize as Abraham Woodhull in AMC’s “Turn: Washington’s Spies”. Bell turns in a excellent performance as a sensitive man who cares for his ex-lover in her time of need. The film seamlessly moves back and forth from the meeting between Peter and Gloria, to her moving in with his family just before her death of breast cancer.
Grahame has collapsed on a stage in London so she appears at her ex-lover Peter Turner’s family home in Liverpool to recuperate. The Turner home is a lower middle class home that is somewhat threadbare, but is warm and comfy because it is the home of a kind and loving family. Oscar nominee Julie Walters plays Peter’s mother, Bella Turner. She accepts Gloria into her home immediately without hesitation.
Against Grahame’s wishes, Peter contacts her children who know nothing of her illness. The relationship between Grahame and her children is at best cold and uncaring.
Though the basic premise of the film is cheerless, the film is not morose. The extremely realistic character portrayals of Grahame and Turner make this an interesting film that never drags. The film, scripted by Matt Greenhalgh, is based upon Turner’s memoir. Turner has a cameo in the movie as Jack.
“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” follows the relationship of two very different people and their unexpected love. The Director Paul McGuigan contrasts Peter’s loving family with Gloria’s repugnant children in such a subtle way that it makes the audience aware of Grahame’s vulnerability. I really liked this film and was disappointed that Benning was not nominated for an Oscar for her performance. She should have been.
“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” opens this weekend at Plaza Frontenac.