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Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool Movie Review: The One That The Oscars Ignored!

Starring: Annette Bening, Jamie Bell

Directed by Paul McGuigan

Rating: *** ½(3 and a half  stars)

Nothing in this  enchanting moving edifying tale of tragic love prepares us for  the heartbreak that

we  collectively  suffer at  the end , when  former film star Gloria  Grahame  now  a faded, dying wisp of a woman, says  her final goodbye to Peter Turner, her lover, confidante and  emotional anchor in her dying days.

 I swear I  heard something break inside me.

It’s  ironic that there are many ironic references  to Romeo & Juliet  in this  tender yet cocky tale  of  forbidden love between a  57-year old has-been femme fatale and her besotted 27-year old lover who incidentally at one point while they gaze romantically at a sunset on the beach(I kid you not, that’s how schmaltzy the  romance threatens  to get)  confesses he has befriended both boys and  girls romantically.

 This is late 1970s and no one says the ‘b’ word(bisexual) out loud.

Gloria isn’t scandalized. She coolly smiles and  smoulders into his ears, “That’s fine. I’ve also been with girls and boys.”

So if you get the  impression that is a  film about an illmatched bohemian couple indulging in a scandalous affair, then banish the  thought.  Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool(at least the one in this film , doesn’t) is   a deeply tragic tale of star-crossed  love, almost  like  a Romeo & Juliet whose Juliet is , in the words  of Liverpool’s Romeo,  old enough  to play Juliet’s Nurse.

If you are  looking for a film about a fading femme fatale fornicating with her toy-boy then this is neither the time nor place. The ‘f’ word here is not what  you think .

It’s ‘family’.  As Gloria begins her journey into the final  fade-out, she  expresses the dying wish to  join Peter’s family in Liverpool for  a spot of farewell sunshine before she leaves  for  the other world, who knows  how cold it would be there??

 It’s  astonishing to see the control that the  director Paul McGuigan exercises  over the overtly sentimental  drama creating a language that is at once lyrical and whimsical. Both  Annette Bening  and  Jamie Bell are outstanding in portraying a  love beyond boundaries of age and sex(sex, as in  the intercourse). Bening  takes over the  biographical character at times almost  mimicking Gloria Grahame lisping narcissism to drive Peter away before  he gets to know the truth about her mortality.I’d say Bening and  Bell  have created a tragic romance of  forbidden  love  with as much flawless candour as Armie Hammer and  Timothy Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name.

The other remarkable performance  in Film Stars Don’t Die In  Liverpool comes from the legendary  Julie Walters as  Jamie bell’s harassed yet relentlessly compassionate mother who  supports her son’s  romantic fervor to the end  creating a warm and  comforting space in her  home  for her son’s beloved who is old enough to be his mother.

Oh yes, the legendary Vanessa Redgrave shows up for a  cameo appearance as Gloria Grahame’s feisty  mother who  pleads with her daughter’s  lover, ‘Please  don’t marry my daughter even  if she begs  you to.”

Into the  God’s ears… and so on. Don’t miss this film about the perks  of providence that  include an affair with a legendary star(whom you don’t know to be legendary star) and a chance to dance  the boogiwoogie with a woman old enough to be….

Juliet’s Nurse? No no. Juliet .


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