Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MFilm Stars Don't Die In Liverpool

Director: Paul McGuigan

Screenplay: Matt Greenhalgh

Based on the memoir by: Peter Turner

Producers: Barbara Broccoli, Colin Vaines

Starring: Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Vanessa Redgrave, Kenneth Cranham, Stephen Graham, Frances Barber, Leanne Best.

When Hollywood actress Gloria Grahame won a Best Supporting Actress award at the 1953 Oscars for an eight-minute appearance in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), it must have seemed her future as an A-list actress was assured. Instead she was usually cast as a slightly trashy or seductive femme fatale in B-movies, aside from her memorable role as the irrepressible Ado Annie in the film version of Oklahoma! (1962).

In later years she was reduced to appearing in a number of stage productions in America and England, which is where she met the young Liverpudlian actor Peter Turner, half her age, in a boarding house in London during the 1970s. Their unusual romance was later documented in his memoir, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, which describes their initial romance as well as their reunion a few years later when both were older and a bit wiser.

The movie’s basic focus on the couple’s time together in Liverpool, where Peter lives with his parents and brother, and Gloria moves into one of their bedrooms while recovering from an illness, is fairly straight forward in a narrative sense. The film is shot on location in drab, wet Liverpool streets, often at night or dusk, in a grittily realistic way that reflects the once glamorous actress’s fading looks. Peter’s home and family are ordinary but comfortable, which juxtaposes with Gloria’s Hollywood lifestyle.

What lifts this movie out of the ordinary is Annette Bening’s depiction of a once-glamorous and increasingly insecure movie star, facing an uncertain future and battling to retain her looks that are all she believes she has to offer. She is wonderful in a role demanding someone who, despite being in her late fifties, has the allure and mystery required to catch the attention of a much younger man.

Bening is incredibly brave in letting the camera see her at her haggard worst, with unflattering lighting and no makeup. The flashback scenes set a mere handful of years earlier in the late 1970s show how attractive she was, and help explain why Peter fell for her despite her diva mood swings.

There were challenges adapting the book, particularly how to convey the shifts between the “present” 1980s Liverpool and the late 1970s London, New York and California, but these are effectively achieved through a traditional if old fashioned movie device of opening a door onto another time and place – also done to great effect in John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) and even briefly in a scene from Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017).

The scenes set in California and New York have a radiant or hazy glow usually associated with a romanticised memory and work effectively, although the limited budget dictated these scenes had to be created using rear projection. This just adds to the sensation of watching a movie that Grahame might have acted in, so rather than being jarring, they add to the sensation of experiencing a movie-star romance.

This film is not an action blockbuster or CGI-laden extravaganza, just a slowly paced, gently depicted May-December romance with lots of quiet, dialogue-free moments that allow the characters’ emotions to breathe and fill the frame, while the final scenes showing the real Gloria Grahame in her prime let the audience appreciate what a loss this actress was to Hollywood.

Paddington 2

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: GPaddington 2

Directed by: Paul King

Produced by: David Heyman

Written by: Paul King and Simon Farnaby

‘Paddington Bear’ created by: Michael Bond

Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi with Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington.

Sans nephew and not having seen the original Paddington (2014) – well, only bits on the cable TV that I caught watching with a patient at (my other life) work; both of us agreeing the film looking surprisingly good and Paddington The Bear textured and lovely: I wasn’t sure what to expect with Paddington 2.

But when a premier ends with applause from the audience and finding a grin on my face with added moments of laughing-out-loud, you know you’re on to a winner.

‘Stop that stunning sister!’ Yells Barry (Simon Farnaby – also co-writer!), the vice deputy security guard of St Paul’s Cathedral, as the villain-of-many-disguises, Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) escapes capture disguised as a nun.

There’s something about that British humour here that just tickles.  And Hugh Grant cast as the has-been actor (now famous for starring in dog commercials) is hilarious.

Paddington 2

Paddington 2 is the sequel to the hugely successful 2014 Paddington – a world wide hit and the most successful non-US family film of all time.

Based on the children’s books written by Michael Bond, Paddington 2 is a fitting tribute to Bond who passed away this year aged 91.

Producer David Heyman has re-united the Paddington team with Paul King at the forefront as director and co-writer – and they’ve all brought their A-game.

From the delightful costumes from designer Lindy Hemming (seriously, I spent half the movie laughing at Phoenix-the-villain’s outfits, socks pulled to knees over breeches included) to the intricacies of the set surprising and clever (production designer Gary Williamson) reminiscent of the Harry Potter movies but with the bright lights of a carnival and a jail shown like a stage set with the jungle of Peru growing through the floor boards.

And of course, Paddington – the texture of his fur making him appear so realistic.Paddington 2

Yet, the story did have glaring holes that is so incredibly un-realistic with the movie about Paddington unjustly being incarcerated for stealing a pop-up book from an antique store for 10 years: really?!

But this is a kid’s movie and when the pop-up book rises to fill the screen and to have Paddington running through the scenes of the book’s pages, any thought of unreality is overwhelmed with wonder.

And there’s some beautiful characters here – the film isn’t all about Paddington.

There’s Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson a personal favourite actor of mine), the shaggy dog, the Brown family and the neighbours living on the same street who all have their own story, used not just as a backstory for Paddington, but to also circle back into the film making each character worthwhile and needed giving that satisfying feeling of completeness while adding a layer to the themes of acceptance and finding the good in everyone you meet.

I’m still grinning replaying the moments, even if I’m not a fan of marmalade.