Despite a cast that includes such proven talent as John Turturro, Brad Garrett, Rita Wilson, and Michael Cera, Gloria Bell is Julianne Moore’s show through and through. So dominate is the Oscar winner that the reliable ensemble around her feel little more than shadows sporadically earning their moment in the sun.
The film itself is one where nothing particularly groundbreaking takes place plot-wise, but the day-to-day occurrences for Moore’s titular character still resonate with a degree of truth and passion, assisting us as audience members during the moments where Gloria’s actions tamper with our own frustration.
A fifty-something divorcee (Garrett plays her ex-husband) with a seemingly mundane day job, Gloria spends the majority of her nights dancing in various Los Angeles nightclubs; “When the world blows up, I hope to go down dancing” she states assuredly. There’s a carefree nature that orbits her, and you’d be quick to note how full of life she is, but behind her radiant smile and infectious laugh there’s a sad loneliness, one that becomes more prominent over the course of Sebastian Lelio’s human drama; the Chilean filmmaker re-imagining his own 2013 feature Gloria.
The yearning she expresses through her constant phone calls to her adult children (Cera, Caren Pistorius) asking if they need her help borders on desperation, but both Lelio and Moore understand Gloria and manage to pull her back when her need to be needed verges on hopelessness.
It’s her meeting with fellow divorcee Arnold (Turturro) where she seems to find a kindred spirit of sorts. Similarly tethered to his children, but in a much more unhealthy manner compared to Gloria, their romance is heated but nonetheless rocky; his constant need to drop whatever he is doing to tend to his adult children – both who sound incredibly undeserving of his attention – proving a deal-breaker as their relationship progresses.
Turturro and Moore create an organic, sincere connection between their two lightly lost characters, and we want to at once embrace them and often shake them out of their tendencies – a dinner party scene where Arnold meets Gloria’s children, ex-husband, and his new wife (Jeanne Tripplehorn) is laced with awkward reality in how Gloria can’t help but reminisce with her ex, which only drives Arnold away – and we find ourselves sympathising with both parties.
Ultimately Gloria Bell‘s plot is secondary to the character. Lelio’s complex study of the emotional difficulties and perplexities of middle-age is what makes this film as engaging as it is. The lighter side to Gloria – the singing along to her favourite songs in the car, the abandon she expresses when dancing, the backbone she materialises when confronting Arnold – are the moments we wish lingered longer, but as another showcase for Moore, this oft frustrating, awkward, and realistic human drama is worth the watch.
About Gloria Bell
It’s never too late to live life to the fullest. Academy Award winner Julianne Moore plays Gloria, a middle-aged woman who decides to take control of her destiny and find love. Also starring John Turturro, Michael Cera and Rita Wilson, this vibrant reimagining of the 2013 Oscar-nominated Gloria will warm your heart.
Gloria Bell (M) is screening in Australian theatres from April 25th with advanced screening April 19th – 22nd 2019.