The sultry Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening, 20th Century Women, The Kids Are All Right) won a best supporting actress Oscar for her performance in 1952’s The Bad and the Beautiful. She appeared in films alongside Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas and a bevy of other icons. Her star blazed brightly then faded quickly, but she did not disappear. How Grahame spent her later years is the subject of this beautiful—and rare—ode to life after fame.
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool features as fine a performance as you will see this year: Annette Bening’s portrayal of Grahame. She is paired brilliantly with Jamie Bell (Jane Eyre), who breathes pure empathy into his role as Gloria’s lover Peter Turner, a working-class English actor. Drawing on 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 is in her fifties but her vitality and eccentricity leave Peter, 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. Unorthodox and sincere, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is the kind of showbiz love story seldom depicted onscreen.
“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.” (Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter)
“It’s a beguiling story and Bell and Bening are tremendous as the star-crossed lovers.” (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)