Film Review: Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool

Annette Bening as Hollywood actress Gloria Grahame in Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool

Nothing really made me want to see Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool. I wasn’t sold on the trailer, I wasn’t sold on the cast (except for Annette Bening) and I wasn’t sold on the story. But, it did tempt me as the perfect antidote to a cold winter’s day while out shopping with my mother (who did want to see it). 

What did I like about the film?

The way it seamlessly transitioned between past and present-day events was superb. At times it felt slightly eerie the way you’d hear sounds from the forthcoming scene before the character had even entered the next time and space. But it made the choice of a non-linear narrative seem more like a creative decision, rather than jumping between points in time for no reason. What’s more, during each of the flashbacks, mostly set between Los Angeles and New York, the characters would often be seen behind a yellow or golden lens which either took the shape of a curtain, veil or car window. It was shot with subtlety and often became part of the mise-en-scène, which really made the sense of nostalgia seem more natural and authentic. Also, Annette Bening steals the show with her portrayal as iconic Hollywood actress Gloria Grahame, both as a vain and vibrant young woman, and a down to Earth breast cancer sufferer coming to terms with a terminal illness.

What didn’t I like about the film?

I felt that Julie Walters was a little typecast as the batty old mother (Harry Potter, Mamma Mia, Brooklyn), but nevertheless gave a reliable performance. It would have been nice to see more flashbacks from before Gloria met Pete, when she was at the prime of her career, but instead the movie focuses on the latter part of her life. I don’t disagree with this approach, as I’m sure there was more emotion and story to explore here, but it would have been such a visual treat to see Annette Bening (or a younger actress) reenact the glory days of Gloria Grahame. It also may have helped to lighten up the sombre mood of the movie in places. That said, we’re offered some old black and white footage from when she won at The Oscars in 1947, which was a nice touch at the end.

Watch the trailer and learn more about Matthew Hepburn.

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