March 11, 2019

SCREEN | Julianne Moore Dances with Herself – 'Gloria Bell'

"Grow a pair!"
Julianne Moore Sebastián Lelio | Gloria Bell

Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio remakes his own 2013 Spanish-language drama, Gloria, beat for beat for American audiences. This time, the film stars a glowing Julianne Moore as the titular mid-fifties divorcée. Gloria Bell feels like a rather refreshing take on the older, single female experience filled with equal parts joy and sadness.

Moore's Bell seems to be mostly enjoying her late in life singlehood despite having to hound her adult children to call her. While on one of her many solo dancing excursions, she meets a well-meaning but sweet sad sack Arnold, played sensitively by John Turturro, and most of the film navigates their endearing but troubled relationship.

Gloria Bell is almost entirely the Julianne Moore show with her performance encompassing the whole of the film's very loose, bare story. Turturro offers a fairly deep, textured character. Both Michael Cera and Caren Pistorius as her slightly disinterested grown children are perfectly supportive of Moore's performance in adding depth and history to her character's happy-go-lucky attitude. Even Brad Garrett as her estranged ex-husband does well with his minimal screen time.

Julianne Moore Sebastián Lelio | Gloria Bell

Moore's earnest performance is a gift. She's so lively, relatable, and personable as a lonely but upbeat divorced mom searching for her own satisfaction and meaning beyond her family. What's most remarkable is how lived-in and textured the Gloria character feels. Scenes of her driving around L.A., singing various '80s power ballads, dancing in clubs, and going about her day build a true sense of history that shares her struggles deftly.

Sterling performances aside, it's hard not to notice how loose and free the film's barely there narrative is. Nothing much occurs and we are constantly waiting for something to happen. Bell experiments with marijuana, experiences a middle-aged sexual resurgence, and stands up for herself but, like life, there's often little payoff to her common struggles.

Moore is undeniably sensational as Bell, but the melancholic film starts to feel meandering as it slowly barrels into its mildly self-destructive yet unsatisfying finish. Nonetheless, it's such a winning performance about aging and passion. Its balance of everyday humour and sadness is also rather impressive.

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