Film

'Gloria Bell' review - An authentic remake of the Chilean classic

Julianne Moore takes a middle-aged divorcee, sidesteps cliché and ends up being fabulous, says Cath Clarke

The film begins with bopping. There really is no other word to describe Julianne Moore’s Seventies-ish shoulder shimmy here playing the title role of Gloria Bell, dancing on her own like no one’s watching at a Los Angeles singles club. In another film this would be a laugh-at-her moment – cop a load of the desperate middle-aged woman looking for love on the dancefloor. But Moore doesn’t do clichés and she inhabits Gloria so naturally with such authenticity that at times Gloria Bell feels almost like a documentary.

It’s directed by Sebastián Lelio, giving us an almost scene-for-scene remake of his knock-out 2013 Chilean drama Gloria starring Paulina García. This new film is like a great cover version of a classic song, hitting slightly different notes, just as good as the original. I couldn’t pick a favourite between the two.

Gloria is a normal woman with your average day-to-day strifes. She works a boring office job for an insurance company, is divorced and has two adult kids around whom she’s a bit emotionally needy. Michael Cera plays her son, whose girlfriend has walked out on him and their baby son (“She’s gone to the desert to find herself,” he says, too exhausted to be angry). Her daughter, a yoga teacher (Alanna Ubach), is about to move Norway with her surfer boyfriend. All pretty average. But Gloria is the lead character in her own life, as we all are – and I was gripped by her dramas.

What is the nature of post-divorce dating? Are second-time-around relationships more shallow?

Gloria is out dancing when she is chatted up by Arnold (John Turturro), who has a kind, rumpled face, and is nothing like the slick, tanned silver-fox guys at the singles club. Arnold’s chat-up line makes Gloria laugh: “Are you always this happy?”

He served in the navy and now runs a gun range and paintballing business. He has been divorced for only a year and carries the baggage of two demanding grown-up daughters who still live at home and call him every five minutes. In the saddest line of the film he says: “I’m always worried about them and they never worry about me. It’s lonely.” Their constant telephoning is so irritating that Gloria drops his mobile into a bowl of soup during one dinner.

What is the nature of post-divorce dating? Are second-time-around relationships more shallow? Does it run less deep if you haven’t shared a life together, raised a family? Or perhaps they are more polite, less likely to turn toxic? Either way, Gloria has a revelation that Arnold might not be the guy for her at a family gathering for her son’s birthday – her ex and his wife are also there. First, awkwardly over dinner, Arnold’s pro-gun, climate change-denying opinions go down like a cockroach in the linguine. Then he walks out without saying anything, feeling left out and neglected by Gloria. Is he after all a bit of an emotional minnow?

Moore appears in almost every scene of the film and in her performance Gloria’s resilience shines. She smokes, drinks a bit too much. There’s even a walk of shame that again would be undignified in another film, but here Moore owns it, with not a pinch of vanity in her performance. As for the dancing, it was apparently choreographed by Mandy Moore, who worked on La La Land. Clearly it takes hard work to bop this goofily.

National Vendor Week 2024

A celebration of people who are working their way out of poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Behind Oscar-tipped doc Four Daughters: A story of radicalisation, family and loss
Sisters Tayssir and Eya, two of the subjects of the new film Four Daughters
Film

Behind Oscar-tipped doc Four Daughters: A story of radicalisation, family and loss

Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley: 'Why the hell are we still judging someone on how they look?'
Film

Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley: 'Why the hell are we still judging someone on how they look?'

Dune: Part Two review – deluxe space opera with a discreet safety net
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET as Paul Atreides and ZENDAYA as Chani in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Film

Dune: Part Two review – deluxe space opera with a discreet safety net

Photojournalist Lanre Fehintola didn't just record life on the edge – he became the story
Film

Photojournalist Lanre Fehintola didn't just record life on the edge – he became the story

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know