Review of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

This post was written by Colin Free on November 23, 2017

In the late 1970s former Hollywood star Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) was trying to resurrect her career on the London stage. She meets the much younger actor, Peter Turner (Jamie Bell) and they start a relationship. Less than two years later, she discovers she has terminal cancer. That much of the plot is clear from the title and trailer and, unfortunately, despite some nice touches, the film does not provide enough additional plot to make it as compelling as it could have been.

Both the leads are fine, though as good an actress as Bening is, she does not have Grahame’s raw sex appeal. Better are Julie Walters and Kenneth Cranham as Peter’s parents who really convince as a couple who have been together many years. The mentions of Gloria’s Hollywood heyday are fun and the choice of shooting the Los Angeles scenes in such a way as to recall how backdrops were commonly used for outdoors scenes when Gloria’s career was at its peak may well have been made for budgetary reasons but it works stylistically too, the saturated light contrasting well when compared to the permanently rainy Liverpool skies.

The device of flipping between their initial relationship, and the time leading up to her death works less well, contributing to a feeling of sluggishness. I did end up thinking that I must see more of Gloria Grahame’s work but I don’t think I will feel the need to re-watch this.

Rating: 6 out of 10

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