This is based on the memoir of the same title by the Liverpool-born actor Peter Turner. Some of the facts are unusual enough to be fascinating, but unfortunately the screen treatment somehow manages to be both dull and overwrought.
The story basically alternates between London (Primrose Hill) in 1979 and Liverpool in ‘81, with fleeting side trips to California and New York City. It begins when 56-year-old Hollywood star and Oscar-winner Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) meets 27-year-old struggling actor Turner (Jamie Bell). An intense and supposedly unlikely affair ensues.
Jump two years, and Gloria is seriously ill. She contacts Peter, and asks if – while she recovers – she can stay with him and his parents and brother in their modest home in Liverpool. Why she wants to do this, rather than spend the time with any of her four children back in the States, is never adequately explained. Gloria is a complex, insecure and conflicted figure, and not entirely sympathetic.
Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool is a tearjerker which won’t necessarily jerk your tears. It’s uneven at best, and sometimes downright banal and corny. There’s a lot of awkwardness, not all of it intentional – as when the style veers between melodrama and actual drama. (Though in a film that’s so much about cinema and projected self-image, it’s hard to say fairly where one stops and the other begins.) Even the choice of soundtrack music is intermittently lazy: does every film with a scene in New York – no matter when it’s set – have to feature a snatch from a Velvet Underground song?
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