Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

Rated 4.0

Annette Bening is an amazing actress. Somehow, she failed to get an Oscar nomination for her bravura turn in 20th Century Women, and now she has been snubbed again for her beautiful, heartbreaking work as movie star Gloria Grahame in this moving film from director Paul McGuigan. Grahame’s latter career was plagued with scandal, but you may know her from her roles in It’s a Wonderful Life and Oklahoma. Married four times and notorious for dating younger men, one of her last affairs involved actor Peter Turner (Jamie Bell), a man 30 years her junior, whose memoir this film is based upon. Grahame saw Turner in the final years of her life, when she was trying to keep her career alive doing theater in England. Diagnosed with cancer, her final years were confusing, tragic and sad, something the film does an effective job of depicting. Bening is convincing as Grahame despite not looking much like her. She does just enough with her voice and mannerisms to convince you she’s Grahame without flat out impersonating her. Depicting the actress both before and after she’s sick, the movie basically calls for two kinds of performances, and she rocks both of them. Bell is terrific as the befuddled lover who must defy his lover’s wishes and call her family about the illness. This is another triumph for Bening. Someday, they will be watching a double feature of this with 20th Century Women, acknowledging that her work in those films is some of the more underrated, underappreciated work of this early 21st century.