Directed by: Sebastián Lelio
Premise: A remake of the Chilean film Gloira. A fifty-something divorcee (Julianne Moore) fills her days with work and spends her nights partaking of the Los Angeles bar scene. She meets a recently divorced man (John Turturro) who has a complicated relationship with his daughters.
What Works: Gloria Bell is extraordinary in an unassuming way. The film is a portrait of a middle aged single woman is search of purpose long after her children have grown and she faces the tail end of her career. The title character, played by Julianne Moore, patronizes the bar scene looking for a romantic connection and she finds it in a recently divorced man played by John Turturro. Both Moore and Turturro underplay their roles and their love connection is sweet in a way that initially makes us want to see their relationship succeed. There is a quiet vulnerability to both Moore and Turturro; we can see the lingering hurt from their failed marriages and each of them has unique relationships with their children. Gloria’s son and daughter have grown into independent people, resulting in their mother struggling to keep herself relevant to their lives. Meanwhile, the adult children of Turturro’s character are frozen in adolescent dependence that has crippled their father’s ability to live his own life. This is a subtle and complex portrait of late adulthood the movie is so successful in large part because of Julianne Moore’s performance. She is utterly unselfconscious and Moore immerses herself in the part. Admirably, this film is not about a woman repairing a man or vice versa nor is it about motherhood as an act of martyrdom. In fact, the story repudiates that kind of pitiful, romantic trope. Gloria Bell’s quiet highlight of the ordinary is supported by its cinematography. The bar scenes are beautifully tinted, the domestic settings have a warm glow, and Moore is always framed in ways that implicitly communicate the meaning of the scene.
What Doesn’t: There is a genre of movies about older characters adjusting to life in their later years. More commercial versions of this story like Something’s Gotta Give or The Bucket List act out heartwarming Hollywood fantasies. Gloria Bell is something different. It’s a slice of life drama and it has an observational style that keeps the characters at some distance. Slice of life stories don’t necessarily adhere to an explicit narrative structure. Gloria Bell has a discernable story but the style of the filmmaking slightly disguises it and so the film doesn’t hit the predictable beats. This isn’t a film engineered to appease mainstream tastes. That’s part of its artistry but some viewers might find Gloria Bell a little too remote.
Bottom Line: Gloria Bell showcases an exceptional performance by Julianne Moore. The movie is far departed from the kinds of movies Nancy Meyers makes and so it might not appeal to that audience. But this is something better, more honest, and more complex.
Episode: #743 (March 31, 2019)