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When Sebastián Lelio released his 2013 hit Gloria, it became Chile’s entrant for the best foreign film Oscar, and Variety magazine suggested that, were it a US film, “the situation of a middle-aged woman refusing to give in to loneliness would likely be fashioned into a comedy starring Meryl Streep or Maggie Smith.” Well, now it has become a US film, under the auspices of its executive producer-star Julianne Moore; written and directed again by Lelio – a virtual shot-for-shot remake of his first film, right down to the Almodóvar-esque flourish of its final confrontation. However, now we have classic American disco numbers for the nightclub scenes, rather than Spanish-language hits. Gloria is a wonderful part for Moore, and it is fascinating to put this picture alongside Moore’s contrasting triumph Still Alice, the study of a middle-aged woman succumbing to early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Gloria is a free-spirited, sexy divorcee and the only thing she wants to succumb to is pleasure. She goes to singles nights and dances happily and without inhibition. She has an apartment (albeit with a noisy upstairs neighbour) and a job she is perfectly good at, and she is on reasonable terms with her ex-husband, Dustin (Brad Garrett), and his new partner, Fiona (Jeanne Tripplehorn), her grownup kids Anne (Caren Pistorius) and Peter (Michael Cera), and also her elderly mother Hillary (Holland Taylor). The point is that Gloria isn’t gloomy or pining; she has, in the words of the song, all her life to live and all her love to give. And then she meets and falls for a silver fox called Arnold, who has become a rather fine figure of a man after recent weight-reduction surgery, and is seductively played by John Turturro. He appears to be a catch and is a vigorous lover (despite the fact that in undressing him, Gloria has to remove his back-support girdle with a noisy ripping of Velcro). Then Arnold reveals that, in contrast to Gloria’s sensibly independent detachment from her family, he is utterly under the thumb of his needy grownup daughters.
Moore struck me as slightly more distrait in the lead role than Paulina García did in the original: klutzier yet a touch more glamorous – though this may simply be a by-product of the star power and celebrity capital that Moore brings to the film. The glasses she wears are a little closer to the sexy-librarian look than the more workaday big glasses that García wore. Moore is in practically every shot – photographed with a more bleached-out look by cinematographer Natasha Braier – and carries the film very well. As in the first movie, we get a very good sense of Gloria’s day-to-day existence, and the sense that the point of it all is not loneliness or defeatism but someone getting on with things.
What I missed from the first film was the subtle implied political commentary. When this drama was set in Chile, there was an interesting subtext to the idea of finding love late in life. There were hints of a whole generation of Chileans having had to put their lives on hold and wait out the dark years. This subtext is now missing, and what we have is an intriguing, more simply focused psychological portrait of a passionate, emotionally generous woman who has fallen for a useless man and realises that cultivating the art of solitude and non-coupledom may be the enlightened way ahead.
Arnold and Gloria’s weekend break together in Las Vegas is a very plausible portrayal of two people both longing for uncomplicated pleasure and fun, while at the same time bored and alienated and even slightly panicky at the thought of it – and estranged from the blank architecture of the Vegas playground. The final scenes showing Arnold’s daughters are a kind of visual punchline, as well as a cleverly implied explanation as to why they might feel their father’s new existence is an act of familial disloyalty.
Whether or not you have seen the original film, there is a terrific performance here from Moore, and an equally good one from Turturro, who may be entering into his own golden years of bittersweet character work.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Gloria Bell review – Julianne Moore is passionate, single and ready to mingle | Romance films