Movie review: Annette Bening plays Gloria Grahame in ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’

The reason to pay attention to “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool” is the reason it got made in the first place — the opportunity to see star Annette Bening in action.

Ever since she first discovered the work of Gloria Grahame while preparing for her role in “The Grifters” (1990), she’s been interested in taking on the story of the last years of that Oscar-winning film-noir leading lady. Bening has done a remarkable job of capturing Grahame’s look and her breathy way of talking, using the performance to explore still-relevant issues of aging, glamour and relationships.

In her day, Grahame was one of Hollywood’s most accomplished creators of femme fatales, who won an Oscar for “The Bad and the Beautiful” and did memorable work in “The Big Heat,” “Crossfire,” “Sudden Fear” and, costarring with Humphrey Bogart, in “In a Lonely Place.”

Grahame had a very particular wised-up affect — “unfathomable and ungraspable” is how critic Judith Williamson described it. But “Film Stars” doesn’t deal with her time on screen so much as her life off it. In the late 1970s, when Grahame was in her 50s and working on stage in England, she met a 28-year-old actor named Peter Turner, and their friendship turned into a romance and then something more.

In 1986, Turner published an affecting memoir on the relationship (it gives the film its title), and it’s been turned into an engaging feature by screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh and director Paul McGuigan.

“Film Stars” opens in 1981 in Lancaster, England, with Grahame in a theater dressing room, patting a cigarette case Bogart gave her after “Lonely Place” and preparing to go on stage in “The Glass Menagerie.” At the same time in Liverpool, Turner (effectively played by Jamie Bell) is working as an actor while back living with his parents, the silent Joe (Kenneth Cranham) and the way more vocal Bella (Julie Walters in familiar territory).

Then the phone rings in Liverpool, and Turner finds out that Grahame has fallen suddenly ill. It’s clear these two haven’t spoken in awhile and that they have a past. Grahame wants to go to Liverpool and recuperate in Joe’s family home under the care of Bella, with whom she always got along well. “I could get better there,” the actress says, and though that seems uncertain, there’s no doubt that Grahame believes it.

“Liverpool” shuttles back and forth between its two time periods, from the pre-illness beginnings of

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment

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