GLORIA BELL- movie review

Reviewed for & by: Harvey Karten
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Screenwriter: Sebastián Lelio
Cast: Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, Caren Pistoruys, Brad Garrett, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Rita Wilson, Sean Astin, Holland Taylor
Screened at: Dolby 88, NYC, 3/5/19
Opens: March 8, 2019

There is wisdom in old age, so when the title character’s mother (Holland Taylor) tells Gloria Bell (Julianne Moore) that “life goes by just like that” (snaps her finger), you realize that Sebastián Lelio’s film is about the complications of growing middle age and beyond. Those are not necessarily the physical ones, as when Gloria, now in her fifties, finds out that she needs to use eye drops twice daily to counteract a malady that probably does not affect youths. More to the point are the complications of relationships . There are children, there are divorces, and yet there is a desire to find a mate at any age, and to dance to tunes like the 1982 “Gloria” with its phenomenal beat, a sound which brought disco music back to life when everyone was pronouncing it dead.

Writer-director Lelio now re-imagines his 2013 film by the same name with Los Angeles as home base taking the place of Santiago, Chile, and he could not have found a better person for the leading role than Julianne Moore—a free-spirited divorcée who, like Tony Manero in the 1977 movie “Saturday Night Fever” works a mundane day job but lives for the dance floor at night.

There is something Woody-Allen-ish in “Gloria Bell,” taking place amid a group of middle-aged, reasonably well-off white people in Los Angeles, where taking off for a weekend in Vegas is easier than even jumping from New York to Miami for a long weekend in the sun. Gloria who works an insurance job by day—and who gets a chance to comfort Melinda (Barbara Sukowa) who has just been fired shortly before she’d would be eligible for a generous retirement allowance. Gloria’s days are complicated only in part from a psychologically unstable neighbor whose cat appears to prefer the more stable environment offered by Gloria. For her part she is concerned about a pregnant daughter who is about to go to Sweden to join up with her boyfriend. At the same time Gloria’s son Peter (Michael Cera) has a messed up relationship with his wife, who left for the desert to “find” herself, leaving him to care for their baby.

At the heart of the movie is Gloria’s relationship with Arnold (John Turturro) whom she meets at a bar patronized by middle-aged people. They appear fascinated with each other, beginning an affair. The fireworks start when Arnold, though professing to think of her all the time “I can’t get you out of my head,” has a co-dependency relationship with his two grown daughters who call him daily. Instead of throwing away his mobile, he answers every call, frustrating Gloria. That’s not his only hangup. Twice, he leaves suddenly without so much as a goodbye; once when he feels ignored by her family at a gathering, a second time after she drops his mobile into his soup.

The music is terrific, and not only the aforementioned “Gloria,” to which Gloria sings and dances joyfully as though to drop all her cares on the dance floor. There’s a favorite of mine, Bach’s Prelude in D minor performed by Gloria’s son Peter on a harpsichord, and also pop hits like “No More Lonely Nights.” The movie would have been just OK with any other lead performer, but with Julianne Moore, whose solid performance, ranging emotionally from ecstatic abandon to soulful tearing up, Lelio’s project comes across as an authentic look at middle age life among people when they are away from their desks.

102 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – A-
Technical –B+
Overall – B+