Tag Archives: Julie Walters

FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL

“Annette Bening is mesmerising as the enigmatic actress with the twinkle in her eye but whose star is now on the wane…”

Wayward Wolf.

Paul McGuigan’s Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (FSDDIL from here on in), is a proper weepy, chronicling the final years in the life of Oscar-winning actress, Gloria Grahame.

Peter Turner (Jamie Bell), is a young up-and-coming actor from Liverpool who lives in a boarding house in London. It just so happens that the actress, Gloria Grahame, is temporarily residing here too whilst she ‘treads the boards’ in the theatres of the capital and beyond, and when the two meet one day, an unlikely romance quickly blossoms.

Whilst Gloria is all flirtatious winks and alluring Hollywood magnetism, it’s clear that she is decidedly insecure in herself, as time will reveal. Whilst understandably enchanted by her considerably younger lover, she is ill-at-ease with the sizeable age difference that exists between them, and can be quick to anger with regard to this.

Nevertheless, theirs is a relationship built on far more than superficiality or shifting sands, and though it’s probably fair to surmise that Peter offers her both the adulation that she craves and the opportunity to wind back the clock and once again live in a bubble of self-congratulatory fantasy, it is a genuine bond of love that develops between them, and the two actors play out their romance cross two continents – the very stuff of Hollywood dreams.

But of course every great romantic story often gives way to tragedy, and it will be Grahame’s unmentioned recent flirtation with serious illness, that will soon come to determine the ultimate course of the couple’s union.

FSDDIL switches back and forth over a two or three year period in the late 70’s / early 80’s, and in doing so, is able to gradually fill in the detail of the couple’s time together. Most noticeable is that McGuigan’s piece feels very focused at the expense of any unnecessarily distracting peripheral events; focused that is upon its two chief protagonists, and a core supporting cast whose parts may, in some cases, be only fleeting, yet nonetheless always feel wholly integral to the story’s narrative.

Subsequently the film’s rather scrutinous approach to characterisation results in a thorough, satisfyingly rounded, three-dimensional examination of its actors, and in doing so, builds tremendous levels of emotional intensity and involvement for its audience.

Of course, you can relentlessly scrutinise your actors through a camera lens all you like, but without that necessary stardust, you’re on a hiding to nothing, and so it’s fortunate that FSDDIL boasts a cast at the very top of their game.

Annette Bening is mesmerising as the enigmatic actress with the twinkle in her eye but whose star is now on the wane, whilst Jamie Bell is all openly-emotive raw energy and enthusiasm, portraying Grahame’s considerably younger lover.

Julie Walters, needless to say, is reliably marvellous as Turner’s mother, Bella; the archetypal Northern, working class mum and the very glue that holds the Turner household together through trying times.

Bening will rightly receive many plaudits for her portrayal of Grahame’s final years, but it’s important that we recognise Jamie Bell’s part in it too. His is an emotionally engaging performance of some maturity and possibly his finest to date.

With a nicely curated soundtrack of sympathetic score and choice songs from the era, and a brave directorial decision to name check the better blue footballing half of Liverpool over the city’s unmentionable red namesake –  something that had me scrutinising the closing credits for evidence of some form of Bill Kenwright involvement – Paul McGuigan’s FSDDIL is a beautifully realised romantic drama of some weight and distinction.

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FILM REVIEW: Brooklyn

 

Moving from Ireland to New York, Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), is in search of a better life.

Her opportunities in a small town on the Emerald Isle are limited to say the least and despite the wrench of leaving behind her mother and in particular her sister, Rose, it seems the right thing to do and the right time to do it.

That’s not to say that Eilis is in any way confident or ready to grab the bull of opportunity by the horns. She isn’t.

It will prove to be an unwelcome introduction to the joys of both extended sea and home sickness, leaving her in much doubt as to the wisdom of her actions.

As with most things in life though, time proves to be the all important ingredient and on settling in at Mrs Kehoe’s Irish boarding house, securing employment, enrolling on a book-keeping course thanks to the kindly Father Flood, (Jim Broadbent), and most importantly of all, making the acquaintance of a charming young Italian/American lad by the name of Tony (Emory Cohen), her American experience improves immeasurably.

Happiness flows freely from here for Eilis.

Nothing lasts forever of course and on receiving some sad news from home, Eilis agrees to return to Ireland for a short break, unprepared for the life that now awaits her there and  for the difficult choices that she must now make.

Brooklyn is a very charming film on a number of levels particularly the  collective performances which are natural and believable whilst being genuinely amusing, soulful and poignant; effortlessly drawing empathy from the viewer.

Julie Walters’ role as the matronly Mrs Kehoe, is a particular highlight; offering her worldly wisdom at meal times to the amusement of the collection of young ladies that inhabit her boarding house. An excellent piece of casting if ever there was one.

In many ways, Brooklyn tips its hat to the age old adage that ‘home is where the heart is’ – although this shouldn’t lead one into a false sense of expectation, for as much as Brooklyn hints at being a conventional love story, if you’re expecting everything to be tied up neatly with a pretty bow, think again. That premise is ultimately a little wide of the mark.

What we can be sure about though is that Brooklyn is a very well realised and above all very likeable film.

It’s visually sumptuous with its soft, pastel colours reflecting the palette of the time, conjuring up an almost dreamy, ethereal quality to what ultimately is a lovely, warm-hearted slice of cinematic escapism.

Highly recommended

Incidentally, is it just me or did Emory Cohen remind anyone else of 1980s slippery brat-pack star, Andrew McCarthy? Everything from the look to the mannerisms.

Is there anything you’d like to tell us Mr McCarthy?