GLORIA BELL

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Sebastian Lelio

Stars: Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, Caren Pistorious, Sean Astin, Brad Garrett, Chris Mulkey, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Rita Wilson .

Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Lelio (the Oscar winning A Fantastic Woman, etc) joins that elite bunch of international directors who have remade their own films for an English language audience (Michael Haneke, George Sluizer, etc). Lelio has remade his own 2014 drama Gloria and this remains a faithful shot for shot reinterpretation of the original, although it relocates the setting from his native Santiago to the dance clubs of Los Angeles. Screenwriter Alice Johnson Boher (A Portrait Of Female Desperation) has adapted the screenplay originally written by Lelio and Gonzalo Maza. Like the original, this warm and generous and heartfelt film explores themes of loneliness, middle aged angst, family, finding one self, identity.

Gloria Bell tells the story a lonely middle-aged bespectacled divorcee named Gloria (played here by Julianne Moore, from Still Alice, etc) who works at a dreary insurance office by day. Gloria has two children of her own (played by Michael Cera and Caren Pistorious), who have families of their own and have little time for her. Gloria loves to sing along to 80s power ballads in her car, a sort of private version of carpool karaoke. But at night she likes to dance and frequents nightclubs and bars which offer the possibility of meeting eligible men of a certain age.

One night she meets Arnold (John Turturro), a middle-aged and recently divorced man, a former Marine who now works as a paintball instructor. She feels that she has met her soul mate, but the road to romance is complicated and the whirlwind romance does not go smoothly. Arnold’s ex-wife and adult children are still very much a demanding and needy presence in his life that eventually drives a rift between him and Gloria. Love is indeed a battlefield for these two lonely and disillusioned people.

Lelio’s films have often dealt with strong female characters, and Gloria Bell is no exception. He has cast Oscar winner Moore in the title role, and she inhabits the character completely. She is great and gives the character a slightly different feel to that of original star Paulina Garcia who seemed more understated in the role. Moore conveys a range of emotions here and brings a feisty quality to the role. She also has a glamorous quality and an earthy sexuality rare in women of a certain age. She highlights her many quirks that make her an endearing character. She comes alive on the dance floor, and these scenes burst onto the screen with energy, exuberance and a sense of sheer joy. This is Moore’s film and she commands the screen.

Turturro brings a mixture of pain and tenderness to his role as the flawed Arnold. The supporting cast also features Sean Astin, Brad Garrett, Chris Mulkey, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Rita Wilson in small roles.

Natalie Braier’s gorgeous cinematography enhances the film’s mood, while the upbeat soundtrack features plenty of 80s hits from the likes of Air Supply and Bonnie Tyler. And yes, that eponymous Laura Branigan hit plays as the film fades into the final credits.

Gloria Bell will certainly connect with female audiences of a certain age who will identify with her urges and her wish to establish her own worth in this fast-paced modern world.

★★★

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