Based on the true story of early Hollywood ingenue Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening), Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool begins with Grahame, in her late 60’s falling for a much younger man, Peter (Jamie Bell) who lives in her apartment building. He is an aspiring actor and is swept away by her charm, body, and success. They begin a love affair and age is never an issue between them. If this sounds like a movie you’ve seen before, I can assure that it feels that way too.
One of the problems with the story is that neither character is particularly lovable or engaging and therefore the audience doesn’t feel the deep connection necessary to make a film such as this work. Bening borders on annoying with her Betty Boop type reading and is given no layers or depth. She unreasonably wishes to play Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Juliet is thirteen years old. One of the couples biggest fights occurs when Peter laughs at the thought of Gloria playing the role of Juliet, it is beyond ridiculous. Bell gives a strong steady performance but in a lackluster story, there is only so far that can go. Vanessa Redgrave appears for a small scene that is one of the finest moments of the film.
Grahame falls ill and ends up living with Bell’s family. There is some fun banter between the parents and Peter and his brother but this too ultimately falls flat.
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Director: Paul McGuigan
Writer: Matt Greenhalgh
Starring: Jamie Bell, Annette Bening, Vanessa Redgrave
Runtime: 105 minutes
MPAA rating: R