Saturday, August 3, 2019

Movie Reviews: Gloria Bell

Gloria Bell
directed by Sebastian Lelio
Gloria Bell is Lelio's English language remake of his 2013 Chilean movie Gloria. The very first thing I thought after having watched this movie, which presumably was at least one of the film's purposes, was that time flies. 

It's hard for me to believe that John Turturro, who for me is always defined by his roles in classic films such as Do The Right Thing, Miller's Crossing, The Big Lebowski, Barton Fink, and Jungle Fever among others, is actually sixty-two years old! Time waits for no man. And no woman either. Julianne Moore is quite well preserved but isn't that much younger than Turturro.

Although the film's trailer might give you the impression that this is a romantic comedy about a couple of a certain age that is not at all where the film's focus is. This is an arthouse slice of life film about a couple of a certain age. And wait, let's rephrase that. It's really about one half of a couple. There are certainly comedic elements in Gloria Bell, oft handled in a mordantly adult way, but this isn't a story where everything will be wrapped up just fine in the third act because someone caught their special rider at the airport/train station/bus station/port and poured out their heart to that special someone just before the other person left forever. 

So if you are looking for that sort of film, skip this one. There's no slapstick here. These characters are adults. They've been around a while and have the physical and emotional damage to prove it.

Gloria (Julianne Moore) is a Los Angeles area divorced insurance adjuster slowly sliding out of middle age into whatever lies ahead. But she's not going gently into that good night. She enjoys life, whether it be yoga sessions run by her daughter Anne (Caren Pistorious) or laughter classes. Although she is not shown to be a musician, Gloria certainly enjoys music. She likes to dance and enjoys singing in her car during her commute. Although she still has a decent relationship with her ex (Brad Garrett), Gloria likes to think that she's too young to hang it up and call it a day as far as intimate relationships. And even if she wasn't too young, like most people Gloria gets lonely at times. 

As her daughter Anne and her son Peter (Michael Cera) are adults who see themselves as not needing their mother's help in their lives, especially not their romantic lives, Gloria is searching for that human connection. Like the Van Halen song says Everybody Wants Some.


One night at the club, Gloria thinks she might have found it with Arnold (John Turturro). Arnold owns a paintball course. He, like Gloria, is divorced with two adult children. Arnold seems to be fun if a little initially standoffish. 

His daughters call him a lot, too often as far as Gloria is concerned. Arnold has some physical challenges. But you know the saying about beggars and choosers don't you. Although Arnold's emotional and maturity issues may cause you to have some more sympathy for Gloria, the film smartly avoids making Arnold a villain, cardboard or otherwise. Turturro plays his character close to the vest. Sometimes you're rooting for him, other times not so much. 

No one can truly say how and why people fall in love, something the film broadly hints at by showing the viewer Anne's and Peter's possibly problematic relationships with their significant others. No matter how obvious it may be to Gloria that her children are making big mistakes she can't stop them or live their lives for them. All she can do is love them. And we suspect Gloria's ex and progeny might well feel the same about her. Brad Garrett's role was small but jeez, does anyone do the angry/disappointed stare better than he does? 

This film is a character study of how people (well women) of a certain age move thru life in all of their vulnerabilities. Moore is on the screen almost all the time. She has a lot of wordless acting to do. And she does it very well. By equal turns triumphant, glacial, and humorous this film meanders at its own pace. If you're looking for action and high drama, look someplace else. If you don't mind downshifting to watch a movie that takes its time, take a gander. Obviously, inevitably, this film uses a lot of 80's pop hits, including (duh) the Laura Branigan song "Gloria".
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