Julianne Moore’s Gloria Bell is endearing and enduring
|Toronto Star 14 Mar 2019 at 09:57|
Starring Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera and Caren Pistorius. Written and directed by Sebastian Lelio. 103 minutes. Opening March 15 at the Varsity and VIP. 102 minutes. 14A
Female experiences with midlife dating tend to be played for sitcom laughs or as a cautionary tale onscreen. Bingeing Netflix hit Dirty John sparks a refresher on the perils of trusting your heart and bank account to a glib stranger who seems to fall too hard and too fast.
Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Lelio (Best Foreign Film Oscar-winner for A Fantastic Woman) presents other views on life and love. Fresh perspective springs from his female-adoring examination of relationships, especially with Gloria, his 2013 film about a 50-something divorced woman seeking romance.
With his English-language remake, Gloria Bell, the action shifts from Santiago to Los Angeles. Julianne Moore (who brought the idea for the remake to Lelio and is executive producer on the film) steps into the role made in the original by Paulina Garcia, whose brilliant work rightly earned accolades.
The sentiments, plot and even the camerawork are the same in Gloria Bell as Gloria, including writer-director Lelio’s dreamy use of colour and sharply observed storytelling punctuated with wry, relatable humour.
Because of Moore’s open-hearted, captivating portrayal of the title character, repetition won’t be a drawback for those who’ve seen Gloria. She makes the role her own with brio and woman-power strength.
Whether she’s singing along to ’80s hits in her car, or hitting the dance floor at singles’ nights, this Gloria has an unashamed enthusiasm for life. But Moore, owlish glasses adding a note of vulnerability, brings a gentle undercurrent of awkwardness to the character, a sense that Gloria feels some determined duty about living her best life, rather than true liberation.
Long divorced, Gloria’s kids (Michael Cera and Caren Pistorius) are grown and have their own lives. Her insurance-company job is hardly stimulating. So, she grabs life with both hands, including jumping into dating with optimism and charming enthusiasm. When she meets Arnold (an excellent John Turturro) on the dance floor, there’s a flicker of hope that maybe she’s found someone special.
Julianne Moore in a scene from Gloria Bell. (AP)
Arnold certainly seems smitten as they begin to date and when they head to the bedroom, it’s refreshing to see the man is the one with body-image anxiety.
He has some issues, both personal and from his draining and demanding family. Gloria has her own to contend with, too, including with her ex-husband. But she isn’t one to settle in life and her chin-forward resolve only makes her more endearing.
With her brilliant smile, Moore has never been more engaging onscreen than she is as the game-for-anything Gloria, a woman who considers the end of days and announces: “When the world blows up, I hope I go down dancing.”