Julianne Moore Is Magnificent in Sebastián Lelio’s ‘Gloria Bell’
In “Gloria Bell,” a remake of “Gloria,” the award-winning film he made in his native Argentina, filmmaker Sebastián Lelio once again tells the story of a type of person often overlooked by society, a middle-aged divorced grandmother. Julianne Moore is divine as the titular character, a Los Angeles woman who frequents a dance club for mature singles. It is there that she finds romance after her divorce ten years prior; however, it soon becomes apparent that navigating relationships isn’t something that becomes easier with age.
Brilliant character actor John Turturro co-stars as Arnold, the unlikely, self-effacing leading man who wins over Gloria with his burning passion for her. Gloria is what many would call an empath, as much of her emotional energy is used on others, not only her adult children (Michael Cera and Caren Pistorius), but also her friends, such as her underappreciated colleague Veronica (Alanna Ubach). It takes an older woman, her mother (Holland Taylor), to remind her that her own life isn’t over, words that are in the back of her mind when she decide to hop into bed with a stranger, Arnold, something we are led to believe is not the norm for her. Soon after, he surprises her by asking her out on a date, thus beginning a romance that would be perfectly charming, if not for all the red flags on Arnold’s end, such as constant phone calls from his adult daughters. Gloria is no fool. She’s not afraid to ask tough questions, but there’s a part of her that so wants love that she is ready to accept any answer Arnold gives.
Despite the setbacks she faces, Leilo and Moore don’t ask the viewer to pity Gloria. “When the world blows up, I hope I go down dancing,” she says during a dinner party. This attitude makes the film feel enjoyable and uplifting. Moore even manages to make what turns out to be a massively disappointing romantic getaway seem like a blast.
Leilo balances the high-energy moments with plenty of quiet and reflectives ones. Moore gives one of the best performances of her career here, allowing her vulnerability to shine through. She bares all, literally in a few cases. Leilo wisely decides to show, not tell, when it comes to the character of Gloria. Some of the best scenes, the ones in which it really comes across who Gloria is as a person, are the ones with limited or no dialogue, scenes of her in her apartment, in her car, participating in an exercise class, etc.
“Gloria Bell” is for sure a female-driven film. While Gloria navigates her relationship, her daughter Anne embarks on a new life adventure with a Swedish surfer, and her best friend (Rita Wilson) plans the wedding of her daughter (Cassi Thomson). The women offer each other unconditional love and emotional support, but that’s not to say that the men don’t have anything to offer here, as they prove to be almost just as complex. There are also some interesting male characters in addition to Arnold, including Gloria’s ex-husband, Dustin (Brad Garrett, showing a different side of himself), who expresses regret in a powerful moment. Tyson Ritter also gives a strong performance, entirely off screen, as Gloria’s mentally disturbed upstairs neighbor. As for Cera, he’s a high-strung father of an infant whose wife took off for reasons that are never adequately explored.
“Gloria Bell” opens March 8 in select theaters, with an expansion to follow.