Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

Director: Paul McGuigan
Running Time: 106 minutes

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool is a tender portrait of faded glamour and it comes to the Nightlight Cinema on March 2nd.

Though she’s mostly been lost to history now, Gloria Grahame really was a bona fide film star; she even won an Academy Award (for 1952’s The Bad and the Beautiful). But by 1979, her fame had dimmed to the point that she found herself scraping for midline gigs, like a regional theater job in Northern England, which is where she met a much-younger aspiring actor named Peter Turner, whose memoir forms the backbone of Paul McGuigan’s gentle, bittersweet dramedy.

It’s a minor-key tale by any measure: a May-December romance played out in the fading shadow of Old Hollywood glamour. But it also has the benefit of a thoughtful script, sensitive direction, and leads gifted enough to breathe fresh air into nearly every moment. The heaviest burden naturally falls on the actress chosen to play Grahame, and Bening, who, let’s be real, is about 15 years and eight performances overdue for her own Oscar already, holds the movie in her hands. Always a formidable presence onscreen, she pivots here to something messier and more delicate, playing Gloria as a still-kittenish starlet well into her fifties, with swinging hips and a breathy Marilyn boop of a voice.

The pair’s unlikely mutual attraction serves them both: he’s awed, and she’s adored. But it’s more than circumstantial, a fact that becomes apparent when it’s revealed that she’s seriously ill and not getting better.

~~ Leah Greenblatt,