Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool based on memoir by Peter Turner
There is a lot to like in this different, unusual, provocative, melancholic motion picture about some of the life of Gloria Grahame.
Gloria Grahame is a former star, who has won the Academy Award for her performance in The Bad and the Beautiful, opposite Kirk Douglas and in competition with other formidable actresses, from features like Singin’ in the Rain, Moulin rouge and Come Back, Little Sheba.
In her role, we have another Deity of Hollywood, nominated herself for four Academy Awards, alas, without yet winning one, famous for her parts in American Beauty, Bugsy, in which she has her real life husband, Warren Beatty, as partner, and the more recent and excellent The Kids Are All Right and 20th Century Women
Annette Benning is at times resplendent, attractive, and radiant in her roles on the stage within the film, or outside the theater, but she also has the courage, the self-assurance to present a tormented figure when she is very ill.
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool presents various stages in the life of the protagonist, from the zenith of her career and the peak point reached in her romance with the other hero, to the moments when…film stars die, including this one.
We learn quite early that Gloria Grahame is very ill and it is not like she did not show it, on the contrary, one could say that it is evident that her condition is serious and if we add to this psychology studies that demonstrate that people who are positive, optimistic live longer and so do older, retired men and women who keep busy, if only with caring for plants and the Japanese on the island of Okinawa and their ikigai philosophy, we can see that the destitute, depressed and morose star is not looking at a bright future.
However, she has had the chance to at least attempt of her condition, after the cancer had been diagnosed, only when her doctor in America has suggested chemotherapy and explained the side effects of this treatment, which involves hair loss, the actress has rejected the remedy, telling her British physician that she could not agree with it.
Nobody would give you a role without hair, she says, and considering the day and age, the retrograde, outright cruel conceptions of that period, when women had to accept the roles offered by men, one could see things from her perspective.
In fact, the Harvey Weinstein scandal that has erupted last year has revealed that, although things have changed, women still had (have?) to suffer harassment, humiliation, abuse from powerful heads of studios, producers and other key figures in the film industry who are in large proportion…men.
Gloria Grahame does not want her family in America to know about her terminal illness, as she has found refuge in the home of her much younger lover, Peter Turner, on whose memoir this film is based.
Peter Turner is portrayed by the brilliant Jamie Bell, whose career was launched with the fulminant, phenomenal Billy Elliot, and in this romance, he has the difficult task of playing a man who experiences multiple emotions, from exhilaration, exuberance, joy, serenity, ecstasy to grief, sorrow and despondency.
It is not an easy, conventional relationship, even if it will surely become more noticeable, seeing as for millennia (?), older men had no problem with getting involved, often abusing and enslaving much younger women.
Which is not the case here, for young Peter is infatuated, devoted to the star that he so admires, even when by accident he manages to upset the older woman who has asked him something about her advanced age and something like he may feel that she is outré, with her penchant and when he answers with a joke that may have been not necessarily, anyway a jest of some kind, Gloria gets mad.
Her condition is aggravating and a conflict ensues in the household where Peter Turner has to fight, physically at one point, with his brother and other members of the family, who, admirers of the former star as they are, feel that the family has to be announced and an ambulance has to be called.
Peter understands that due to her psychological, mental condition, transporting her all the way to the United States, where she does not want to travel, would mean her death sentence and he has to avoid that.
Alas, the son does arrive and states that all measures have been taken and his mother would take an airplane, next morning, for America, where her doctor will see her and she will be very well cared for.
The motion picture offers short stories from the past of the formidable actress, including real footage from the Academy Awards ceremony where she has been awarded the Oscar for her role in the outstanding memorable narrative of a producer and the star he finds and redeems out of misery and destitution, The Bad and The Beautiful.
Gloria Grahame was very curt, indeed she would have one the ski jet offered at the Oscar Ceremony of this year, 2018, for the shortest speech by a long shot, since all she cared to say after taking the statuette was…thank you.
There is a feeling that her life as a Hollywood “film star” who would not die in Liverpool has affected her thinking, attitudes and acts, maybe including her rapprochement to this young man, who is only 29.
In a discussion with her mother aka Vanessa Redgrave and sister, the latter mentions the fourth husband and his youth, to which the actress replies that he was no child, only to get in return that indeed, he was when she first slept with him.
“Peter Turner: Has anyone ever told you that you look like Lauren Bacall when you smoke?
Gloria Grahame: Humphrey Bogart. And I didn't like it then either.”