Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

Out Now On-Demand

Annette Bening and Jamie Bell star in this adaptation of British actor Peter Turner's memoir, directed by Emmy-nominee Paul McGuigan.

"Drawing on [Peter] Turner's memoir of the same name, director Paul McGuigan fashions a moving narrative that embraces the high and lows of the erstwhile Hollywood star's time spent living in Liverpool in the 1970s. Gloria (Bening) is in her fifties, but her vitality and eccentricity leave Peter (Bell), who is decades younger, enraptured by this outrageous new force in his life. As the two embark on their romance, we follow them from England to Los Angeles, from stage to hospital, and from laughter to tears." (Toronto International Film Festival)

Trailers

Directed by

Written by

Drama, True Story & Biography, Romance

105mins

Rating: M Offensive language & sexual references

UK

Expectations for Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool were high, despite the clunky title, following a charming trailer and intriguing, true-story premise. This good looking big-screen adaptation of the memoirs of young Liverpudlian actor Peter Turner — played exuberantly by Jamie Bell, and chronicling his three-year, late 1970s love affair with faded American film noir actress Gloria Grahame, (Annette Bening) when he was 26 and she 54 — somehow failed to completely satisfy.

Bening’s Gloria is compelling viewing, a woman-girl with a breathy 1950s movie star voice, simultaneously a confident, compulsive, movemaker and a brittle shell through which her insecurities and need to be adored occasionally bust out - with alarming results. Bell does a convincing job of nailing the playful puppy to Gloria’s big cat whimsy, nonplussed when he inevitably gets scratched. Peter’s mum, Bella Turner (Julie Walters), who must have been of a similar age to Gloria, provides a surprising dynamic with her compassionate and supportive friendship toward the volatile star, albeit in a way that feels a little too modern, liberal and somehow atypical of the era. Perhaps she sensed her vulnerability, perhaps this is a rose-coloured recollection, considering Gloria’s monopoly and manipulation of her young son.

Juicy snippets include performances from Vanessa Redgrave and Frances Barber as Gloria’s mother and sister, and touch superficially on the scandalous and complicated subject matter, (namely a reported “affair” with the 14 year old son of her second husband, whom she later went on to marry when he was 19), that eventually led to Gloria’s fall from favour with Hollywood well before she met Peter. Frankly, that is where the story lies. This bookend of Grahame’s latter life — though entertaining and not without wonderful nuanced moments, an evocative soundtrack and light laughs  — is maddeningly gun shy.

Hollywood Reporter

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Despite a few quibbles that viewers may have, there is no denying the emotional force that this film develops, and for that, we can credit talented filmmakers and two stars working at the height of their powers.

Screen International

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First rate performances from the two leads, and a fine supporting cast, confirms this as an awards season contender.

Variety (USA)

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Over-production-designed as the film is, Bening and Bell manage to hold their own within it.

The Guardian (UK)

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It's a beguiling story and Bell and Bening are tremendous as the star-crossed lovers.

Empire (UK)

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It's a classy weepy [sic] with some killer dialogue, but Bening is the big sell here. Given one of the juiciest roles of her career, she makes every moment count.

Total Film (UK)

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A real-life May-December romance, movingly told and acted. Bening and Bell give performances to cherish.

TimeOut (London)

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Brittle and insecure, yet also steely and magnetic, Bening's performance is full of nuance.

Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)

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A sumptuous slice of movie making that deserves to find a wide audience.

Sydney Morning Herald

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Bening's performance channels years of close observation of what actors are like...

Listener (James Robins)

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Bening and Bell together are imperishable.

Keeping Up with NZ

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An uneven biopic about fading stardom and mismatched love that succeeds only because of its warm beating heart.

Newsroom.co.nz (Darren Bevan)

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Bell's commitment and depth to the role guarantees the film its emotional core throughout.

awesome

brilliant