Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
dir Paul McGuigan
scr Matt Greenhalgh
prd Barbara Broccoli, Colin Vaines
with Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Kenneth Cranham, Stephen Graham, Vanessa Redgrave, Frances Barber, Leanne Best, James Bloor, Tom Brittney, Isabella Laughland, Peter Turner
release US Oct.17 mvff,
UK 17.Nov.17
17/UK Eon 1h45
Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool
Hollywood sunset: Bening and Bell

walters graham redgrave
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool With a gorgeous visual style and vivid characters, this true story is packed with superb details that bring the people and situations to life. It's an offbeat narrative, rejecting the usual structures as it flickers back and forth in time over the course of about three years, but it offers some sharp comedy and big emotional moments along the way. And a nice comment on how Hollywood discards old actors.

In 1981 Liverpool, former screen siren Gloria Grahame (Bening) collapses while preparing to go on-stage, calling her much younger ex Peter (Bell) for help. She moves in with his parents (Walters and Cranham) to recuperate, which sends Peter down memory lane through their romance. He was an aspiring actor three years earlier when they met in London, then followed her to Los Angeles and New York before things went sour. And now he is beginning to understand why she broke up with him.

Director McGuigan gives the film an artful look that's much bolder than most British period films. Peter literally walks from the present day into his flashbacks, a simple gimmick that works beautifully to connect the dots in his relationship with Gloria. In the final act there are also some flashbacks from Gloria's point of view, which feel rather unnecessary, filling in the other side of the story only because the fragmented structure may lose some viewers.

Bening has a lot of fun with the role, layering Gloria's vanity with her insecurity, a woman who makes fun of her age but doesn't like anyone else mentioning it. It's fascinating to watch her movie star persona slip here and there, and Bening shines particularly in some strong scenes later on. Opposite her, Bell has the film's true leading role, since almost all of the story is told through his eyes. He gives a superbly understated performance that lets the audience into Peter's thoughts and feelings without ever being obvious about it.

It's also fun to see Bell reunited with Walters 17 years after they clicked so beautifully in Billy Elliot. Along with the actors' thoughtful performances, McGuigan's artistic flourishes and Greenhalgh's observant script carry the audience through this story in ways that will spark memories even if the film doesn't have much subtext or weight. This is a finely crafted film with a strong story to tell, and perhaps its most salient lingering message is about the randomness of fame.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 13.Sep.17

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