Thursday, March 21, 2019

Julianne Moore rings true in 'Gloria Bell'

This remake of a Chilean movie celebrates one woman's ability to stand alone.
By day, Gloria Bell works for an insurance company. At night, she likes to go dancing, maybe because crowded, throbbing dance clubs give her sense of being with others -- even though she's still alone. Gloria has two grown children and has been divorced for a dozen years. She's lonely but not enough to accept the company of a hairless cat that insists on finding its way into her apartment.

If all this sounds familiar, it's probably because you saw the 2013 Chilean movie Gloria, which was directed by Sebastian Lelio. Lelio has remade his movie with an American cast, substituting Julianne Moore for Paulina Garcia, the actress who played the title character in the original, which simply was called Gloria.

Lelio gives the title a surname and moves the story to Los Angeles, where Gloria Bell spends her time studying yoga, taking a shot at laugh therapy and trying to keep up the spirits of a work friend (Barbara Sukowa) who fears the pending loss of her job.

After Lelio introduces us to Gloria and gives a glimpse of her alienated life, he brings her together with a guy she meets at a club (John Turturro). Having been divorced for a year, Turturro’s Arnold seems like a great match for Gloria. He's considerate, has a fun job (he owns an amusement park where people play paintball) and makes a pleasing sexual partner.

Turturro gives a convincing performance as a man who wants to move forward but struggles to shed the heavy baggage of his former life, namely two needy adult daughters and an accident-prone ex-wife. Will Arnold wimp out or will he assert himself and develop a real relationship with Gloria?

The rest of the supporting cast doesn't get much attention. Michael Cera plays Gloria's son, a young man mired in a failing marriage, and Caren Pistorius portrays Gloria's daughter, a young woman who seems to have found true love with a big-wave surfer.

Lelio stages a painfully awkward scene when Gloria brings Arnold to a birthday dinner with her two kids, her former husband (Brad Garrett) and his new wife (Jeanne Tripplehorn). Things don't go well.

Look, even those who haven't seen the Chilean version will have guessed by now that the point isn't to provide Gloria with a happily-ever-after with a great partner. The script brings her to a point of self-assertion at which she no longer needs a partner. She’s able to dance on her own -- to Laura Branigan's familiar song, Gloria -- of course.

That makes Moore the movie's main attraction, and she's more than up to the task; she gives Gloria Bell soul as she builds toward the inevitable realization that cracks through the wall of Gloria's conflicts.

Add some comedy, and you've got a movie that dances to a beat you've heard before, but won't mind hearing again.

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