Combustible Celluloid
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With: Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Kenneth Granham, Jodie McNee, Stephen Brookes, Vanessa Rdgrave, Frances Barber
Written by: Matt Greenhalgh, based on a book by Peter Turner
Directed by: Paul McGuigan
MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexual content and brief nudity
Running Time: 105
Date: 12/29/2017

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool (2017)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Grahame Cracking

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though they don't look much alike, Annette Bening plays a fifty-something Gloria Grahame by speaking in a higher register, the breathier, sexier voice that made her a star in The Grifters. (That's a role that Grahame could easily have played at some point.) Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool is based on the true final chapter of Grahame's story; she was amazing in films like It's a Wonderful Life, In a Lonely Place, The Bad and the Beautiful, and The Big Heat, sensual and dangerous and wise, but then the good roles simply dried up. In the late 1970s, she went to Liverpool to perform on stage and met and fell in love with the much younger Peter Turner; Turner wrote a book about their time together, which is the basis for this film. Jamie Bell plays Peter, and, miraculously, the two create a tender chemistry onscreen. The movie isn't too concerned with age differences or hitting biographical highlights. Rather, it tries to get at the heart of how these two connected. It's lovely, and unexpectedly romantic. It's also touching how Peter's family, especially his mum (Julie Walters), befriend and care about Gloria as a person. It was directed by Paul McGuigan, who mostly specializes in crime films and TV shows; this is his gentlest work.

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