Films Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (here forth known as FSDDIL) is the nostalgic, romantic true story of 28 year old Scouser Peter Turner's love affairs with the much older former Golden Era star and Oscar winner Gloria Grahame.
In 1979 28 year old Paul is a struggling actor from Liverpool, living in a hose share in Primrose Hill when he spies Gloria Grahame, Oscar winning Hollywood star undertaking vocal exercises in her room. Paul is immediately transfixed, Gloria invites him in to help her with her dance class (hmmm) and there begins a tumultuous May to September love affair that neither of them will ever forget.
From the start of FSDDIL Paul McGuigan sets us up with a sweeping, romantic tone. Even though the movie takes place in 79 and 81 the film often makes us feel we are in the very era Gloria was famous for. But wait. We must talk about Jamie Bell. Hell yeah Jamie Bell – he is transformed in this film. The era suits him but he is assured and sexy and a man like we haven’t seen him on screen before. It is a transformative role and I relished every minute of it. And then to Bening. I have adored Annette Bening since I saw her stealing the show in The Grifters (one of my all time favourite films FYI). This is a performance of exquisite truth and beauty. We see the lines in Bening's face for all they are and she is still an unutterable beauty that is for sure but it is jarring to see her skin against the young taut skin of Bells, so rarely do we see this kind of pairing. So rarely do we see the sagging skin lines of life etched onto a female, especially one in a sexual role. It is so important this film for this alone.
The chemistry between Bell and Bening is sparkling – the scene of the two of them dancing together is one of the most ebullient and sexiest I’ve seen of late, it is utter joy. Their relationship is a whirlwind of lust, love and make believe and careers towards the most heart breaking of conclusions. I won’t give what happens away but for me reminiscent of Satine being told by Zidler in Moulin Rouge ‘hurt him to save him’ and Bening plays it to perfection.
FSDDIL is a wonderful film, it may meander a little in the middle but for me I was completely swept away in the performances, the story and the love.