Gloria Bell is a remake of Sebastián Lelio's Spanish-language Gloria (2013). Here, the location switches from Santiago to Los Angeles, with Julianne Moore starring as a free-spirited fifty-something office worker, navigating life as a divorcee.
I wrongly assumed that her life would be depicted as a celebration of her freedom, enjoying a perfect relationship in the bosom of her now-grown family. Instead it is a candid depiction of awkward family scenarios and useless boyfriends, peppered with office life, car singing and everyday moments. She finds joy in her local singles nightclub, where she dances like no-one's watching in Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dresses.
Julianne Moore is both charming and mesmerising as Gloria; the heightened realism of her unfiltered life both disconcerting and refreshing. Gloria Bell is not a movie where much happens, but a character study of her life, from embarking on a new romance to the mundane, like handwashing her bras in the bathroom sink or having a bikini wax. Most of the action takes place around her, from her son's new baby girl and absent partner to her daughter falling in love and relocating with a Swedish big wave surfer. Everything that happens is underpinned by the unpredictability of life, happiness and dissatisfaction.
Gloria loves her grown-up kids and enjoys what seems to be a relatively content life, but her continual return to the dance floor (usually alone), relaxation classes and laughter therapy imply a hidden sadness.
She hooks up with a paintball instructor, Arnold (John Turturro) at the singles bar and the two begin a somewhat shaky relationship. Arnold’s ex-wife and daughters are needy and we soon realise that he hasn't moved on in the way that Gloria has. One moment he is all over her and the next he disappears, as if overwhelmed by his feelings.
One such instance is at a dinner party with Gloria's children and ex-husband, which leaves her hurt, angry and questioning everything. As the family look over old photos, Arnold becomes increasingly marginalised - even in the frame - where he is placed at the edge of shots and often in soft focus. His exasperation adds both tension and humour until he excuses himself and sneaks out of the building. Much as he and Gloria seem to adore one another, his unpredictability changes her life into something much more complicated.
Music plays a significant role in the film with a repertoire including Gloria Gaynor’s Never Can Say Goodbye, Anita Ward’s Ring My Bell and numbers from Olivia Newton-John, Bonnie Tyler, Earth, Wind and Fire and Air Supply.
Moore is in every scene of the movie and I love her all the more for how she played it.
The supporting cast includes John Turturro, Brad Garrett, Michael Cera and Caren Pistorius.
I saw Gloria Bell at QFT, Belfast and hope that it makes its way to more cinemas around the City.