British director Paul McGuigan and Paul Bettany broke into the film scene with their energetic GANGSTER No. 1, full of brutal violence and drama. In McGuigan’s latest effort, this time with young BILLY ELLIOT actor Jamie Bell (watch the dancer’s hustle scene with Annette Bening), the energy and freshness are clearly missing.
FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL, they die in New York City. At St. Vincent’s Hospital, to be exact. The film star in question is Oscar Winner, Gloria Grahame (portrayed by Oscar nominee Annette Bening) who dies of cancer after one last fling (at the age of 57) with young beau, Peter Turner (Bell). She spends the her last days in Peter’s home in Liverpool, must to the chagrin of her family. The film based on Turner’s own memoir and adapted into a script written by Matt Greenhalgh alternates between the years 1981 of her death and 1979 when Grahame and Turner first met in Liverpool. It seems awkward to call them a couple, because they look so awkward as a couple – both in real life and on the screen.
The film is an affectionate tribute to Gloria Grahame but the film is a total bore. Audiences have had many chances of watching a romance between an old man or woman or vice versa and someone half their ages. Films with this subject have always been a disaster from Clint Eastwood’s BREEZY (William Holden and Kay Lenz) to SAY HELLO TO YESTERDAY (Jean Simmons and Leonard Whiting). Though FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL is a true story based on the memoir written by Turner himself, the film still fails despite solid efforts by Bell and Bening.
Bell looks too cute and adorable to be falling for an older person. Are there no younger women in Liverpool? I have never really liked Bening in anything, so I will save any negative comments here, except to say she gave her best performance in AMERICAN BEAUTY (though the real bitch in real life turned out to be Kevin Spacey).
McGuigan attempts to pull at the heart strings, with an archive clip of Oscar night when the real Graham accepted the Oscar with a short ‘Thank You’. Oscar Host Bob Hope remarked in the film’s funniest moment: “She made it!” One problem is that Gloria Grahame is shown in the film possessing no redeeming qualities so it is difficult to like the film’s main character. Not much insight is offered on the life of Gloria Grahame either, nor her work. There is only brief mention of her memorable films like THE BAD ANDTHE BEAUTIFUL . She is portrayed as a rich and spoilt movie star obsessed with her glamour – the typical cliched portrayal of an ageing star.
Surprisingly more interesting that the Grahame and Turner’s romance is Peter’s parent’s romance. Early in the film, the mother (Julie Walters) complains of her marriage of being married to a lump of nothing, but near the end of the film shown holding hands affectionately with her husband (Kenneth Cranham). Vanessa Redgrave has a cameo as Gloria’s mother in the film.
Though shot in Liverpool, there are more scenes at Turner’s house with the old staircase and musty wallpapers than exteriors. There is one scene of the two at the beach.
Film stars might not die in Liverpool but this film dies a quick death.