Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool - Review

Annette Benning is on a hot streak: After scoring a Golden Globe nom for 2016's superb 20th Century Women, the incredibly versatile actress returns in 2018 with a character just as compelling as anything she's done. Oh, and Jamie Bell is pretty good too.


The most prevalent issue with director Paul McGuigan's latest work is its uneven acting; Annette Benning's Gloria Grahame is at once charming, off-putting, and seductive, an acting style Benning has been perfecting for years, so no problem there. She is hurt easily, and satisfied simply, often by Jamie Bell's hard to read and inconsistent character. Dubious one liners abound in the first two thirds of the film, and while Benning can deliver this type of dialogue with devilish ease, Bell is not so fortunate. His means are murky, and it is never quite clear why he does the things he does, such as date a much older film star from the 1940s. We are meant to believe that Bell falls for her, and she for him, by a simple twist of fate. 

The film continues to stumble in its attempt to tell a grand story in a confined, intimate way. Characters bounce from location to location, with only title cards as an explanation as to why they have gone there. Several years pass throughout the story, yet there is little indication; Far too much attention is payed to stylistic character than to the story the characters inhabit, and several creatively edited scenes do little to distract from the uninspired plot structure the film sells. 

At its heart, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool is a perfectly alright picture: A memorable lead performance from Annette Benning makes it worth a watch for diehards, but there is little else here to stay for.