Combustible Celluloid
With: Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, Brad Garrett, Holland Taylor, Sean Astin, Tyson Ritter, Caren Pistorius, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Cassi Thomson, Rita Wilson, Alanna Ubach, Barbara Sukowa
Written by: Alice Johnson Boher, Sebastián Lelio, Gonzalo Maza
Directed by: Sebastián Lelio
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use
Running Time: 102
Date: 03/08/2019

Gloria Bell (2019)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Bell' of the Paint-Ball

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Chilean director Sebastián Lelio's English-language remake of his 2013 Gloria works surprisingly well, less a sellout than it is an alternate deep-dive into this heartbreaking, atypical character.

In Gloria Bell, Gloria Bell (Julianne Moore) is a divorced, middle-aged woman who works in an insurance office and doesn't hear from her grown children as often as she would like. At home, she deals with a screaming upstairs neighbor and a mysterious hairless cat that keeps invading her apartment. So she fills her empty hours drinking and dancing to disco tunes at a nightclub. One night, she meets Arnold (John Turturro), and they easily slip into a sexual relationship.

Arnold runs a kind of theme part with paintball guns, and is newly divorced, at the beck and call of his grown daughters and ex-wife. When Gloria takes him to meet her family at the birthday party of her son (Michael Cera), he suddenly leaves, later claiming that she wasn't paying enough attention to him. He tries to make it up to her by taking her to a fancy hotel in Vegas, but once again disappears when his phone rings. With nothing left to lose, Gloria heads out into the night and into the arms of a stranger.

With Julianne Moore ably taking the baton from acclaimed Chilean actor Paulina Garcia, Gloria Bell is almost beat-for-beat with the original. Taking a nuanced, perceptive look into the life of a character a little past middle age, the movie wonders if an ordinary woman that has already married and already raised children still has a right to, or a shot at, happiness. (The question itself is poignant.) The pitfalls she faces are all viewed through the rich lens of late-life experience.

Gloria is as bitterly familiar with a divorced man's baggage as she is unfamiliar with, say, holding a paintball gun or handling a creepy hairless cat. She frequently wears a pasted-on smile, perhaps believing that if she appears to be positive, she'll be more appealing to others. But the ache still comes through. (She's simultaneously shielded and open-hearted.)

The movie lacks a certain Chilean climate that belonged to the original, but Lelio — following up his remarkable English-language debut Disobedience — manages to find a certain American-ness in his story, especially a youth-obsessed culture's disregard for the over-fifty set. Regardless of language, it's a sophisticated, touching character study, and highly recommended.

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