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Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool Review – Captivating; Annette Bening is Mesmerizing In this True Story

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Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, from Sony Picture Classics, presents the true story of 1950's screen siren, and Oscar winner, Gloria Grahame and her romance with Peter Turner, a man half her age, during the last years of her life.

Directed and written by Paul McGuigan, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool stars Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Vanessa Redgrave, Julie Waters, Stephen Grahame, Kenneth Cranham, Leanne Best, Frances Barber, and Tom Brittney and is based on the memoir by Peter Turner.

The film begins in a dressing room in a Liverpool theater where an actress is meticulously unpacking a make-up bag. Each item is set in order, as if preparing an elegant place setting, she adds a few items of sentimental value as the audiences sees an inscription from Bogey, another personal item, music is playing from a cassette she recorded.

All the while we see tight shots as the actress continues her warm up exercises, the camera pans to a placard of The Glass Menagerie staring Gloria Grahame. We hear the knock of the door "Five minutes, Ms. Grahame."


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Ready for her entrance Gloria Grahame, played by Annette Bening, stands and crumples in pain. The next scene takes us to the home of Bella and Joe Turner, played by Julie Walters and Kenneth Cranham, where they are arguing about the upcoming trip to Australia.

Joe Turner, Jr., played by Stephen Graham and his wife are sitting at the kitchen table as Bella explains her theory on why they whole trip is cancelled when Peter Turner, played by Jamie Bell, walks into the middle of the conversation not understanding why a stopover in Manilla is such a bad thing.

Suddenly the phone rings. And so begins the story of Peter and Gloria. We see how much pull this aging Hollywood star has on her younger man. Even as time had passed since they had last seen each other, he couldn't turn his back on her.

The film shifts as it intertwines the memories of the three years the two spent together beginning in 1978 at a boarding house in London where Gloria, who once lived beside Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in Hollywood, was renting a room and working on her vocal exercises. The odd sounding warmup's to strangers.

Gloria, who has always had a fondness for younger men, saw the handsome young boy next door, and one day waited until he arrived and asked him if he wanted to help her. The next scene the two are disco dancing around the room.

Her play opens on London's West End and once again she is earning rave review, the darling of the theatrical world. In some circles the nearly thirty year age difference had him pegged as a boy toy for the gossip mongers it was just another saga in the sordid life of Ms. Grahame.

From then on the two are drawn together and the memories of his first time in Los Angeles, to her manufactured home in a trailer park that has a view worth millions, to her New York apartment overlooking the Chrysler Building, to meeting her mother, Jean, played by Vanessa Redgrave, and her sister Joy, played by Frances Barber, when he finds out the scandalous history of the four time divorcee.

As Gloria lies dying, his family explains as gently as possible that she needs to be with her family, even as she believes she will get better. We find out that she had breast cancer and fear of losing her fading career she refused chemotherapy opting for radiation. The choice left her vulnerable.

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool is a compelling story and Annette Being is captivating as she relives the last great romance of her life and tackles the dying process.

The choices the director made in presenting the three years Peter and Gloria spent together is impressive. He intertwines the three years the two spent together. Once Gloria arrives at the Turner's home, all the memories are triggered by sensory and it is as if a window to the past has opened.


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Jamie Bell, who is receiving raves for his role, shines as the much younger man, caught up in the life of the aging Hollywood starlet. More than just along for the ride, he genuinely plays the role as someone invested in the relationship.

Of course, there is always the possibility it was the greatest role in the real Peter Turner's career and he took it, made it his own and was willing to see it through to the end and he did. He was there when no one else was and she knew she could depend on him.

Film Star Don't Die in Liverpool is character driven with the home life of the Liverpool working class as gripping, absorbing and interesting as the sordid life and history of the Hollywood starlet. The ensemble cast, each processing the finality of the moment, manifests a depth of emotion that projects volumes in single words and gestures.

More than absorbing, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool showcases Annette Bening in a fascinating, riveting, role where she again mesmerizes, holding the interest from the beginning. She is magnetic.

The music highlights a season and features a beautiful original song, "You Shouldn't Look at Me That Way," written and performed by Elvis Costello.Puerto Rican singer Jose Feliciano is also featued with a soulful rendition of California Dreamin.

Having played at more than a dozen Film Festivals, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool opens in limited release, in the U.S., December 29, 2017. See this film. It is captivating

 

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