Gloria Bell charms us with a rare movie heroine — a gutsy, infuriating, totally human woman who happens to be both single and in her late 50s. Played by Julianne Moore in a brilliant, mesmerizing performance, Gloria is stunning, of course, even with her silly oversized eyeglasses. But she’s not a cute young thing — she’s a mature beauty who must pluck hairs on her chin and style her hair to draw attention away from her wrinkles.
Gloria’s been divorced for over a decade, so you can’t help but wonder why she’s still single. Perhaps it’s because she doesn’t join a church or get involved in politics where she might meet suitable men. She doesn’t even have a hobby.
Instead, dance-crazy, Gloria tries to find love in a neon-lit adult dance club. One night, she clicks with newly divorced Arnold (a surprisingly appealing John Turturro). They dive into a passionate affair with plenty of frontal nudity from the lovely Ms. Moore. And then Gloria has to deal with that horrible bugaboo of all romances — reality.
Gloria Bell is an almost identical remake of director Sebastián Lelio’s 2013 film, Gloria, set in his homeland of Chile and starring Paulina Garcia. He’s a director who loves female characters, most recently 2018 Best Foreign Language Oscar-winner A Fantastic Woman and Disobedience, starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams. And though he has no need to rush their stories, that doesn’t mean his films are boring, exactly — just subtle and slow.
For me, Gloria Bell unfurled like a long pale chiffon scarf captured by a breeze. It snagged often on the relentless thorns of friends’ constant reminders to Gloria that life is short, balled up in the lives of her two independent, grown children Peter (Michael Cera) and Anne (Caren Pistorius), then ripped to shreds on the flimsy new branch with Arnold.
But Gloria’s spirit is powerful. Like all goddesses, she can revive herself, especially if she has a strong potion like Laura Branigan’s rousing dance song that echoes our heroine’s name. Her story will make you sad and glad and really mad, which is why it’s good to remember that sometimes the only solution to a broken heart is a well-aimed act of revenge.
Starts March 22 at the Fine Arts Theatre