Film Review: Gloria Bell

Writer/director Sebastián Lelio’s American ‘reimagining’ of his own 2013 Chilean production Gloria sticks pretty closely to the original, and star Julianne Moore is as luminous as ever as the titular character.

Perhaps (like Michael Haneke and his US revamp of his own Austrian Funny Games) Lelio wanted to personally remake his film in case some Hollywood hack did it poorly, and transposing the story to LA doesn’t really hurt the material, while a mostly fine cast keep it honest.

JM’s bespectacled Gloria Bell is a single 50/60something divorcee who haunts nightclubs, dancing to disco hits with strangers by night and facing a series of personal and professional problems by day. She worries about her grown-up kids (Michael Cera and Caren Pistorius) as much as her own Mom (Holland Taylor) worries about her, she’s loyal to her friends and workmates, and she’s annoyed by a local Sphynx cat.

When she meets another divorcee, Arnold Tenner (John Turturro), they commence an intense romance which she thinks is going to turn into something deep and committed, but Arnold is slippery and seems unable to tell the truth. And perhaps the casting of Turturro is a problem: a prestige player and always fun as weird characters, he tries to keep the leering to a minimum but still comes across as very creepy, leaving us wondering why Gloria falls for him so hard. Surely she’s not that desperate?

There are slight differences here from Lelio’s own original: Gloria’s lover in that film was older and slightly less unreliable; the sex scenes were raunchier; and Gloria herself was somewhat frumpier. But the American version had to go with a star name and it’s not at all surprising that that star name is as gorgeous a creature as Moore.

As interested in difficult relationships as the films Lelio made quickly after the first Gloria (A Fantastic Woman and Disobedience), this is entirely about her too, as Gloria comforts her drunk and upset ex-husband (comedy actor Brad Garrett), amusingly bonds with Arnold over paintball and (badly) sings along to Air Supply in her car.

Gloria Bell (MA) is in cinemas now

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