7:30 PM, 28th September, 2018
This documentary from director Roger Michell is a delicious addition to previous witty chat fests like The Trip. Tea with the Dames is an education in cinematic history as these actresses (still available for hire) sit down as friends to reveal the stories behind some of the great roles in drama over the past six decades.
These four legendary dames – Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright – effortlessly extol on what it takes to be a great actress. They are generous in their reflections on the idiosyncratic world of showbiz, and their impressive banter demonstrates their worldly savviness without descending into mawkish reflection or sharp retort.
The setting of a countryside home settled this viewer into a false sense of security as so many hilarious and self-effacing recollections were recounted. Trust me, it’s perfectly okay to let go and laugh out loud at the spontaneous badinage, rather than politely titter in front of this dinner table of dames.
9:03 PM, 28th September, 2018
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool covers the last days of the complicated life of 1940s Oscar-winning film-noir star, the iconic and glamorous Gloria Grahame (Bening), whose successful career waned in the mid-1950s, leading to a succession of minor movie, TV and stage roles.
It takes up her story in 1981, when Grahame, after collapsing in pain during a stage gig in the UK, turns up, gravely ill and unannounced, at the Liverpool home of the parents (Julie Walters and Kenneth Cranham) of her former lover, Peter Turner (Jamie Bell). The gloomy tone of the current is lifted by flashback scenes to happier times in Hollywood and New York during Grahame’s affair with Peter, many years her younger. Conversely, we also explore Grahame’s relationship with her mother (Redgrave) and her vindictive, jealous older sister (Frances Barber), revealing the underlying unhappiness and dysfunction defining the star’s life.
Based on Peter Turner’s memoirs, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is a poignant and thoughtful tribute. Bell’s heartfelt and nuanced performance as Peter is a standout, as the affair first blooms then withers; and the superb Annette Bening ranges between a brittle, forced optimism and pathos, as Grahame’s health deteriorates.