The title character in Gloria Bell is a fiftysomething divorcée, and the movie is uncommonly generous to her by the sometimes standards of contemporary Hollywood.
I’ll give you an example.
When divorced, single Gloria (Julianne Moore) goes to bed for the first time with her new boyfriend, Arnold (John Turturro), he’s the one who removes his girdle.
Yes. Turns out he used to weigh 300 pounds, and his new slim figure, achieved with the strategic use of a corset, represents his new direction in life. Arnold’s out on his own, separating from his clingy kids, and a needy ex-wife.
Or is he?
Gloria hopes for the best, not just in this situation, but in life. Chilean writer-director director Sevastian Lelio — remaking his own 2013 movie — presents Gloria as a woman who always forges happily ahead, amid circumstances that might drive a lesser person to Prozac.
She lives alone in an apartment next to an upstairs neighbor who may be a psycho. A cat from a horror movie keeps showing up in her kitchen. Her new boyfriend is probably full of beans. Her adult son (Michael Cera) doesn’t return her phone calls, unless he needs babysitting. Her daughter seems ready to embark on a marriage every bit as unpromising as Gloria’s own. Her best friend at work, just Gloria’s age, is being encouraged to leave, and we wonder if Gloria is going to be next.
Does Gloria? If so, she doesn’t dwell on it.
She is an eternal optimist, but somehow never an infernal optimist, often alone but never lonely. Moore sketches this beautifully — a signature scene (repeated a couple of times) has Gloria in her car, delivering amusingly upbeat versions of long-faced classic rock ballads songs like “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
Out to dinner with friends, the conversation turns sour, she interrupts to say that if the world is going to end, she intends to go out dancing.
This attitude comes in handy when she hits the singles clubs, which look kind of end times-ish, and are redolent of Grecian Formula and desperation. It is here that Gloria hooks up with Arnold, a character who purports to have spent time in the military (this was an important aspect of the Chilean original). In Turturro’s hands, the character carries less of a military bearing, and in fact seems rather shiftless.
He is needy and unreliable, and Moore allows Gloria to accommodate his backsliding up to the point where the character risks being seen as a pushover. This leads to a moment when Gloria stands up for herself — delightfully in character, in a scene that combines strength, independence, and just the right note of comedy.
Gloria Bell. Directed by Sebastian Lelio. With Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, Caren Pistorius, Brad Garrett, and Jeanne Triplehorne. Distributed by A24.
Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes
Parents’ guide: R (sex)