Film & Television

As ‘Gloria Bell,’ Julianne Moore Dances Into Your Heart

It certainly seems as if Chilean director Sebastián Lelio loves women. Especially those who won’t take “no” for an answer.

Lelio took home the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film last year for A Fantastic Woman (Una Mujer Fantástica), a stylish and sensitive story that examined a transgender woman’s right to mourn the loss of her lover in the face of his conservative family. He also co-wrote and directed the English-language film Disobedience, which explored the forbidden sexual relationship between two Orthodox Jewish women.

His 2013 film Gloria proved that older women — in this case, the marvelous Chilean actress Paulina García in the title role — could be vibrant and sexy, confident and adventurous. As he told her story, he didn’t surrender to any of the silliness we tend to see in U.S. movies with mature romantic heroines. Gloria was never awkward or embarrassed; the romantic scenes in the film were never played for laughs. And, when Gloria’s love life didn’t work out as she had hoped, she didn’t collapse; she continued to live her life her way.

It’s little wonder that formidable Academy Award winner Julianne Moore was drawn to Gloria. So much so, in fact, that she reached out and asked to meet Lelio. After an initial misunderstanding decided to move forward. As Moore explains to IndieWire, “I only wanted to do something with him. I wanted to work with him on it or something or anything. So, then he said, ‘Well, I understand you’re not interested in doing this,’ and I was like, ‘No, I would do it if you did it,’ and he was like, ‘I would do it if you did it.’ It sort of happened like that.”

How fortunate for audiences that it did happen.

Gloria Bell (following the original Gloria quite closely) is the story of a middle-aged divorced mother of two. By day, she works as an insurance adjuster. By night, she goes to clubs and dances to disco hits from the 70s and 80s, savoring martinis and flirting cautiously. She’s lonely, but she never wallows in it. Her two children have their own busy lives, and she leaves them long, caring voicemails, ending each with “I love you,” and then almost as an afterthought: “Oh, it’s your mother.” A (rather creepy, hairless) cat continually breaks into her apartment, and one of her neighbors has rage issues which she overhears alone at night. She dresses nicely, if a bit conservatively, and hides behind oversized glasses, which only barely diminish the actress’s luminous beauty. There is nothing extraordinary about Gloria Bell. But, for a movie heroine, that in itself is fairly extraordinary.

Moore remembers her reaction seeing the original Gloria. “She was just real. . . . The thing that I respond to most when I watch films and performances, is what seems true. And there hadn’t been a truer performance that I had seen. There was something about it that was so, so lovely and warm and always positive. I like seeing movies about people, period. . . What is life? Sometimes it’s getting up and going to work and feeding your cat. That’s your life.”

 

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  • M.Cassella March 31, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    I saw this movie after reading this review. I was very disappointed. I felt that Gloria was a one-dimentional character, stuck in the 80’s. Do these kind of places still exist? She “floats” thru her world without connecting to the men who pass thru her life or her adult children or other women. This seems like a male fantasy of what women want. She parrots the sounds of fake orgasm before the first move. Yes, she is physically beautiful, the dancing is real, the music seductive, but only the hairless cat seems real.

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