By Pat Mullen
If the world’s going to end soon, Gloria Bell (Julianne Moore) hopes to go out on the dance floor. Gloria loves to bust a move in the trendy clubs of Los Angeles as she looks for romance. The world’s not going to end if she’s dancing solo, though, and the funny, sad, and empowering Gloria Bell comes to a rousing climax as its leading lady kicks up her heels, embraces her age, and decides to own the dance floor like nobody’s watching.
Chilean director Sebastián Lelio remakes his 2013 art-house hit Gloria with Julianne Moore taking over the Paulina García role and doing justice to her predecessor. Gloria’s family is branching off as her kids create their own families, and there’s an emptiness to her life that the divorcée longs to fill. The film follows Gloria as she seeks a new partner during nightly prowls in LA clubs. One evening, as she surveys the crowd from behind a martini and her oversized hipster glasses, she sees a dashing man checking her out. A few drinks and a bump-and-grind later, and they’re a match. Arnold, played by Moore’s Big Lebowski co-star John Turturro, is recently divorced, but echoes Gloria’s desire to embrace the years she has left.
However, Gloria wants to move forward while Arnold clings to the past, despite the poetic, lovey things he says to get into Gloria’s pants. Their relationship sees humiliating ups and downs as Gloria realizes that Arnold is completely whipped by his ex-wife and their daughters. Mr. Right isn’t what he seems to be, and Gloria is just one step away from becoming a comfortable cat lady – and from realizing that there is nothing wrong with that, as noted by the hairless cat that intrudes upon her apartment, seeking her company night after night.
Gloria Bell, like the original, surprises, since romantic comedies (and films in general) rarely tell stories of mature women, let alone afford them leading roles. Gloria is the mom role transformed from a supporting character with a menopausal plotline into a leading lady whose mature soul and body anchors every frame of her own story. Comedy doesn’t tend to be Moore’s strength, yet she delivers a rich, lived-in performance of great humour by playing it straight in Gloria Bell. She taps into the heartfelt sadness of the character, drawing out Gloria’s loneliness and vulnerability.
Gloria Bell is a rare remake that surpasses the original. Little changes in the film, but Lelio is a more accomplished filmmaker now than he was in 2013. After last year’s Oscar-winning A Fantastic Woman and the forbidden love story Disobedience, Lelio has refined his craft. Gloria Bell also sees him working on a much larger canvas with the benefits of a Hollywood budget, and it allows him to improve upon a work that was already great to begin with. The vibrant colour palettes and hypnotic scores are all Lelio in his element, and he makes great use of the LA locations and pop songs that populate Gloria’s lonely days. Best of all, he finds the perfect dance partner in Moore to embrace Gloria’s young at heart vitality. Gloria Bell is a humorous and affectionate study of the road to self-love.
Gloria Bell is currently looking at a 2019 theatre release date.TIFF