Film & Television

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

Gloria Bell’s life changes one evening when she meets Arnold (John Turturro), a recent divorcé. After a few furtive glances on the dance floor, Arnold approaches her at the bar. They drink; they dance; they go back to Gloria’s and have sex. As in Lelio’s earlier film, there’s an utterly refreshing moment when Arnold is more self-conscious about his body than Gloria is. Arnold explains that he used to be quite fat and as they undress each other, Gloria has to undo a girdle he still wears. When she hears from him a few days later, she’s surprised. “Are you actually asking me on a date?”

Their next date is a trip to the paintball park he owns. Gloria soars above the Earth in a helmet and harness, then proves herself to be an excellent shot. The two enjoy more and more time together, and the only thing that seems to worry Gloria is how dependent Arnold’s two grown daughters and ex-wife are. He takes calls from them at (the most) inopportune times and continues to support them emotionally as well as financially. There’s an immaturity to Arnold that Gloria is willing to overlook until he abandons her in front of her own family; he can’t deal with how much friendly affection still remains between Gloria and her ex or how independent her children are. When asked what his do, he shrugs and says, “Nothing.”

It’s obvious early on that Gloria deserves more than Arnold will deliver. But, she tries as long as she can. And, when she finally breaks, it’s one of the most satisfying sequences in the movie. We’re left with an image of Gloria at her best and brightest, dancing with abandon to the late Laura Brannigan’s 1982 megahit “Gloria.”

The cast of Gloria Bell is uniformly solid. Turturro, who, despite his turn as Woody Allen’s Fading Gigolo has got to be Hollywood’s most unlikely leading man, brings the conflicted Arthur to life. Gloria’s two children, both of whom love their mother but aren’t above eye-rolling, are played by Caren Pistorius and Michael Cera. Rita Wilson is Gloria’s best friend, and Brad Garrett and Jeanne Tripplehorn play her ex and his new wife. The ensemble work is terrific.

But, as the title implies, Gloria Bell is very much Moore’s movie first and foremost. And, she is absolutely fabulous. “When the world blows up,” she remarks at one point, “I hope I go down dancing.”

That comment, a silly response to someone’s pseudo-serious point that mankind is destroying the Earth, really describes Gloria’s outlook. By many standards, her world has blown up. Her marriage is over. (No matter how many times her ex-husband points out, “We were in love,” as they look at old pictures, he has moved on and she has not.) Her children don’t need her; they barely keep her apprised of their major life decisions. She lives in an average apartment and works at an unremarkable job. And, she is fully aware of all of these failings and disappointments. Yet she smiles and laughs. And, yes, she dances.

And, she will absolutely capture your heart.

At Women’s Voices for Change, we often find ourselves bemoaning the dearth of directing opportunities for women. There’s a need for more women’s stories to be told, and who better to tell them than women? There are, however, exceptions, and Lelio is certainly one.

Moore, an active member of Time’s Up, has her own take on this. “Why do we have to be so gendered all the time?” she asks. “I don’t think there’s a female filmmaker who wants to be called a ‘female filmmaker.’ You just want to be a filmmaker . . . Sometimes I take offense when people talk about Sebastián and how unusual it is because he makes movies about women. I’m like, ‘Why can’t he make beautiful movies about women? Let him.’ Why do we have to keep commenting on it and how unusual it is? I’m like, ‘Let’s just do it.'”

She does see things improving for Hollywood’s women, though. “It takes a long time to turn a boat around, you know? We’re just talking about a year and a half. It’s not very long, but . . . many, many more women are producing and directing now, so that’s great. People are making an effort to hire more female directors.”

Moore is currently working with an incredible female director. And, she’s again playing a character named Gloria. Moore will star as Gloria Steinem in Julie Taymor’s upcoming film, The Glorias: A Life on the Road. Written by Taymor, Steinem, and playwright, and co-starring Alicia Vikander, Bette Midler, Lorraine Toussaint, Janelle Monáe, and Lulu Wilson, the film promises to give women everywhere something to dance about.

 

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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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