Updated: Mar 22, 2020
By playing the peppy pop tune "Gloria" for its previews in 2013, the movie with that title misled me. I watched it expecting something similarly light and cheery, only to find myself saddened and wistful by the end — disappointed, actually because I wanted to finish by feeling good. At the same time, I recognized positive qualities in the film and felt it deserved a second chance from me. That chance came in a different manner than expected.
"Gloria" director Sebastian Lelio retooled his Latin American film into one called Gloria Bell, spoken in English and starring Julianne Moore. Better prepared for what to expect, I felt no disappointment about this low-key, thoughtful presentation of a good-hearted woman who feels adrift even though much of her life runs smoothly. Writer-director Lelio maintains many of his first version's effective moments, which shift smoothly from their original setting in Santiago, Chile to Los Angeles.
And of course, Moore gives represents the usual for her--a finely tuned performance. She steps in the title role first played by one of Chile's most prominent actresses, Paulina Garcia, who earned an AARP nomination for her performance in 2014. Both Moore and Garcia get to the heart of Gloria, a woman who feels much younger than her years. She likes to hang at retro dance clubs and sing along to seventies love songs like Alone Again Naturally. Gloria feels alone, a sense that children, grandchildren, work friends, and a best buddy fail to soothe.
A man who might fix all that comes along, but writer Lelio refuses to capitulate to the tone promised by soundtrack songs like Love is in the Air. With actress Moore and co-star John Turturro's complete understanding of their characters, Lelio shows small, meaningful moments that feel pulled from the lives of ordinary people.
I particularly like a scene where Gloria secretly watches her daughter leave at LAX — barely a minute, it catches extremes and nuances blending hope, fear, happiness, and grief. Gloria Bell excels at these common intricacies. This second chance at watching the story still left me feeling pensive. But at least the final scene pounds out that Gloria song, and this time I left with some bounce in my step.
This review was originally aired on 3/29/2019.
You can listen to it online at https://www.kunr.org/post/gloria-bell#stream/0