Movie review: Julianne Moore shines as title character in 'Gloria Bell'

 
By Jake Coyle
Associated Press
Updated 3/15/2019 11:18 AM
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  • Arthur (John Turturro) falls for Gloria (Julianne Moore) but goes running every time his ex-wife calls in "Gloria Bell."

    Arthur (John Turturro) falls for Gloria (Julianne Moore) but goes running every time his ex-wife calls in "Gloria Bell." Courtesy of A24

  • This image released by A24 shows Julianne Moore in a scene from "Gloria Bell." Everyone is vanishing around Julianne Moore's title character in Sebastian Lelio's "Gloria Bell." The disappearances don't come with bloodcurdling shrieks or thundering score cues, but with the humdrum ebb of middle age. People just move away or recede from view. (A24 via AP)

    This image released by A24 shows Julianne Moore in a scene from "Gloria Bell." Everyone is vanishing around Julianne Moore's title character in Sebastian Lelio's "Gloria Bell." The disappearances don't come with bloodcurdling shrieks or thundering score cues, but with the humdrum ebb of middle age. People just move away or recede from view. (A24 via AP)

"Gloria Bell" -- ★ ★

Everyone is vanishing around Julianne Moore's title character in Sebastian Lelio's "Gloria Bell." The disappearances don't come with bloodcurdling shrieks or thundering score cues, but with the humdrum ebb of middle age. People just move away or recede from view.

Gloria is a divorced, fifty-something Los Angeles insurance agent by day and dances disco at a nightclub by evening. Her son, Peter (Michael Cera), is caring for a newborn while his wife is away "finding herself." Her daughter, Anne (Caren Pistorius), has an extreme surfer boyfriend chasing waves abroad -- and she might join him. Gloria's closest colleague at work is sent packing. And, most of all, her promising new boyfriend Arnold (John Turturro) has a funny habit of disappearing every time his ex-wife calls.

Just about the only one who's consistently there for Gloria is a hairless cat that keeps turning up in her apartment.

"Gloria Bell" isn't a dour midlife character study but a warmly affectionate one, in large part due to Moore's radiant, lived-in performance as a woman committed to self-renewal. The film is an English-language remake of Lelio's own 2013 drama "Gloria," and this version is frequently a shot-for-shot, line-for-line recreation. Still, "Gloria" feels light and spontaneous.

With a dreamlike sheen (aided by Matthew Herbert's technicolor score), "Gloria Bell" follows Gloria through her modest days where any disappointments or slights are usually worked out at the nightclub -- a place of refuge. "When the world blows up, I hope I go down dancing," Gloria says brightly to friends.

Gloria's life, like most, is full of impermanent connections and stabs at self-improvement. But she is blessedly undaunted, like a personification of the uplifting spirit of the Laura Branigan anthem "Gloria." In Los Angeles traffic in her car, she belts out '80s songs. Vulnerable and guileless, this is as natural as Julianne Moore has ever been, even if her Gloria feels too secure for us to ever fear much for her future.

It's at the nightclub that Gloria meets Arnold, an ex-Marine who owns a paintball park. His first line at the bar is: "Are you always this happy?" "Some days I am," responds Gloria. "Some days I'm not."

Their budding relationship moves to the center of the film but Arnold remains a mysterious figure. He's clearly still attached to his ex-wife whose calls disturb nearly every romantic moment. While smitten with Gloria, Arnold is so absurdly tethered to his ex-wife and their apparently unstable young adult daughters that the character -- though so poignantly rendered by Turturro -- verges on parody.

Or better yet, "Gloria Bell" -- pleasantly low-key as it is -- should have tipped more fully into comedy. With Moore, Turturro, the underused Cera and others like Brad Garrett (as Gloria's ex), the cast is certainly there for it. Some scenes feel like they would turn hysterical if the camera just rolled a little longer, if the sheen of art-film was a little punctured.

I mean, here is a movie with John Turturro dancing AND shooting paintball guns. We have Julianne Moore haunted by a hairless cat, an upstairs neighbor who screams "I want to die!" and a boyfriend who goes missing every time his phone rings. It's tempting to wonder what someone like Nicole Holofcener or Greta Gerwig would have done with such material.How about one more remake?

• • •

Starring: Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, Brad Garrett, Caren Pistorius

Directed by: Sebastian Lelio

Other: An A24 release. In limited release. Rated R for sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use. 102 minutes

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