Slough Cooperative Film Society Slough Cooperative Film Society

The Society has been showing the best of world and independent cinema in Slough for 70 years

 

15th May 2018 DATCHET VILLAGE HALL

FILMS STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL

UK 2017 106 mins


Gloria Grahame Annette Bening Director Paul McGuigan
Peter Turner Jamie Bell Writer Matt Greenhalgh based on
Bella Turner Julie Walters the book of Peter Turner
Joe Turner Kenneth Cranham Cinematographer Urszula Pontikos
Jean McDougall
Joe Turner Jr.
Vanessa Redgrave
Frances Barber
Stephen Graham
Editor
Music
Nick Emerson
J. Ralph

With a gorgeous visual style and vivid characters, this true story is packed with superb details that bring the people and situations to life. It's an offbeat narrative, rejecting the usual structures as it flickers back and forth in time over the course of about three years, but it offers some sharp comedy and big emotional moments along the way. And a nice comment on how Hollywood discards old actors.

Film Stars don't die in Liverpoll poster

In 1981 Liverpool, former screen siren Gloria Grahame collapses while preparing to go on-stage, calling her much younger ex Peter for help. She moves in with his parents to recuperate, which sends Peter down memory lane through their romance. He was an aspiring actor three years earlier when they met in London, then followed her to Los Angeles and New York before things went sour. And now he is beginning to understand why she broke up with him.

Director McGuigan gives the film an artful look that's much bolder than most British period films. Peter literally walks from the present day into his flashbacks, a simple gimmick that works beautifully to connect the dots in his relationship with Gloria. In the final act there are also some flashbacks from Gloria's point of view, which feel rather unnecessary, filling in the other side of the story only because the fragmented structure may lose some viewers.

Bening has a lot of fun with the role, layering Gloria's vanity with her insecurity, a woman who makes fun of her age but doesn't like anyone else mentioning it. It's fascinating to watch her movie star persona slip here and there, and Bening shines particularly in some strong scenes later on. Opposite her, Bell has the film's true leading role, since almost all of the story is told through his eyes. He gives a superbly understated performance that lets the audience into Peter's thoughts and feelings without ever being obvious about it.

It's also fun to see Bell reunited with Walters 17 years after they clicked so beautifully in Billy Elliot. Along with the actors' thoughtful performances, McGuigan's artistic flourishes and Greenhalgh's observant script carry the audience through this story in ways that will spark memories even if the film doesn't have much subtext or weight. This is a finely crafted film with a strong story to tell, and perhaps its most salient lingering message is about the randomness of fame.

Rich Cline at www.shadowsonthewall.co.uk