Annette Bening deserves to be an Oscar front runner for the emotional range and poignancy she brings to her portrait of Gloria Grahame in “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”.
This film is based on the memoir of Peter Turner, the younger actor who became involved with Grahame in 1978 after the actress’s movie career faded and she appeared on stage in Britain. Turner was at Telluride.
Bening’s portrait of Grahame vividly combines sensuality, romanticism and vulnerability with the charisma of an Oscar-winning actress (“The Bad and the Beautiful”, 1952) who had acted with top stars.
When Grahame collapses before a stage performance, she asks Turner (Jamie Bell, “Billy Elliot”) if she can recuperate at his home. Flashbacks show the different stages of the often intense relationship between Grahame and Turner.
The film would not be as successful without the strong chemistry between Bening and Bell that makes their characters’ enduring emotional connection believable. Jamie Bell is also impressive as the younger man who remains drawn to the older actress.
Julie Walters who appeared with Bell in “Billy Elliot” creates another notable performance as Turner’s sympathetic but realistic mother. Vanessa Redgrave has a memorable scene as Grahame’s mother in a reunion with her daughter.
Intercutting the central relationship in different time frames, director Paul McGuigan has made an intriguing, absorbing, and ultimately moving film.