Director Sebastian Lelio presented an iconic character – essayed impeccably by Paulina Garcia – in his 2013 Chilean film “Gloria.” Five years on, he brings forth “Gloria Bell,” a recreation for a global audience. The tantalizing version adheres to the essence of the original which is an emotive account of a 50-plus divorced grandmother’s realization of true happiness and the ultimate triumph of a woman scorned. Julianne Moore is the new Gloria.
“Gloria Bell” introduces the protagonist in a pub, which serves as a recurring scene setting. Moore owns the frame and the entire film. The Oscar-winning actress delivers a palpable performance, the perfect blend of an exquisitely crafted and frill-less portrayal of her character, Gloria Bell.
Sunny L.A. is the background for the uninhibited spirit of Gloria, who is given a more frivolously humorous trait in this version. Moore captures this effortlessly through her interactions with fellow characters. Whether it be at her son’s birthday party, where she introduces her newfound lover Arnold (John Turturro) to her ex-husband, Dustin (an endearing cameo by Brad Garrett), or simply the dismissive manner in which she deals with the stray cat who repeatedly sneaks into her rented apartment.
Gloria sings out loud to vintage pop numbers such as “Love is in the Air” on her way to work. She moves with an air of nonchalance as she seeks relevance in her children’s lives and companionship, perhaps love, albeit in the wrong places. Enter Arnold, also a divorcee with two children, who regales her with prose such as, “If I were blood, I’d lie in your heart.”
Lelio gives Gloria to his audience wholly, even playing with nudity contextually well. A conversation on aging led by Gloria – half naked after sex – is a powerful scene in its simplistic candour.
The ideal of love fades away in the second half when Arnold reveals his cowardice and betrays Gloria more than once. Here it becomes all about the glory of Gloria, her revenge.
Joyously, she shall have it; with a paint gun and her namesake Billboard hit from the 80s as her weapons of redemption. Her triumph is magnified in a climactic wedding scene where Gloria dances with abandon, busting moves by “La La Land” choreographer, Mandy Moore. This is Gloria Bell’s victory dance. And the cat has moved from the kitchen counter to her bed.
This review was written for a Toronto International Film Festival class in September 2019.