GLORIA BELL (2019)
Starring Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, Caren Pistorius, Brad Garrett, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Rita Wilson, Sean Astin, Holland Taylor, Tyson Ritter, Cassi Thomson, Alanna Ubach, Barbara Sukowa, Jenica Bergere, Sandra Rosko, Calvin Dean, Aileen Burdock, Barbara Scolaro, Stan Divranos, Francisco Rodriguez and Sonia Gascón.
Screenplay by Sebastián Lelio.
Directed by Sebastián Lelio.
Distributed by A24. 102 minutes. Rated R.
You all know someone like Gloria Bell, but chances are you don’t really know her.
Gloria is a 50-something divorcée, always smiling and working overtime to keep the people around her happy. However, behind the contented façade, there is a desperate, gnawing loneliness. She’s good at her job, but not satisfied by it. She has slightly strained relationships with both of her grown children, though she works hard to suppress anything which may upset them. She is still relatively friendly with her ex-husband and his second wife.
She drives to work singing along to the same early 80s pop songs that were big back when she was still in school. She goes to yoga classes and therapy groups, all in search of answers she can’t seem to find. She regularly goes to over-50s nightclubs to dance the night away and to find a little companionship. And she is willing to look past the danger signs when she meets men who would have raised red flags for her at any other period in her life.
The world is full of lonely people, and Gloria Bell is just one of them. However, it is rare that Hollywood takes a look at the private lives of women of a certain age, so it is nice that Julianne Moore took a chance in telling her story.
Gloria Bell is the Americanization of Chilean writer/director Sebastián Lelio’s 2013 film Gloria, as translated into English by the original filmmaker. I’m not going to lie, I’ve never seen the original. From what I hear, the new version is very faithful to the original story-wise, though perhaps a bit lighter in terms of tone.
While there is certainly a throughline of plot here, Gloria Bell does not flow like a typical Hollywood story. It is more episodic, more a series of days in the life of a woman than a traditional three-act structure. This loose structure gives Gloria Bell a chaotic realism that doesn’t always show up in the movies. This is not some mannered story being told. Life is being lived here. Life that is messy, joyous, devastating and sometimes confusing.
Essentially Gloria Bell is just a compendium of the relationships in Gloria’s life. Some are more important than others. Some take on fleeting vitality, only to settle back down. Some are long-standing and steady – for better or worse.
Take, for example, her children. Gloria is the kind of attentive parent who will leave her adult kids long, rambling voicemails about anything and everything, and then close out with a slightly pathetic, “It’s mom.” Her son (Michael Cera) is a slightly depressed seeming new father whose wife seems to have mysteriously disappeared. Her daughter (Caren Pistorius) is a yoga instructor who has fallen for a Swedish surfer and is planning on moving away with him. Gloria worries about both of them but knows that she can’t get too involved, or they will push her away.
Gloria’s relationship with her own mother (Holland Taylor) is similarly distant. Her mom is a well-off but distant widow and Gloria can’t help but feel that she is still a bit of a disappointment to her, even after all these years.
The closest thing to a main storyline here is Gloria’s relationship with Arnold (John Turturro), one of the guys she met at her favorite club. Even though they obviously have little in common – he seems quite guarded and shy, their personalities and their beliefs clash, he is extremely needy (bordering on stalkerish) and is disturbingly connected to his adult daughters and ex-wife – they end up in a relationship. Even when he lets her down in a rather astounding way, Gloria lets Arnold worm his way back into her life.
However, there is much more to Gloria Bell than love and sex. It’s part of her life and growing process, but only a part. Almost sixty years into her life, Gloria is still learning and budding.
Like its protagonist, Gloria Bell is a slightly messy movie, but it’s sweet and lovable in its human imperfections.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2019 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 8, 2019.