From its opening shot, “Gloria Bell” fulfills its intentions effectively and fearlessly. In a room full of people, the titular character (Julianne Moore) seemingly blends in as one of the crowd. The camera then begins to focus on her, demanding that not just the audience, but the world, take notice of her.
Thankfully, the film is worthy of this attention. Although “Gloria Bella” is a shot-for-shot remake of his 2013 Chilean film “Gloria,” Sebastián Lelio still manages to breathe new life into his English adaptation featuring Oscar-winner Moore.
Gloria is a divorced woman who struggles to balance her mundane insurance office job by day and her wild escapades on the dance floor by night. One night out, she meets Arnold (John Turturro) and the two begin a tumultuous relationship that turns her personal and professional lives upside down, forcing Gloria to face the excitement and chaos that come with new love.
While much of the film focuses on Gloria’s strange romance with Arnold, the narrative thoughtfully incorporates both of their families into the plot. Gloria’s two children, Peter (Michael Cera), who has recently become a father, and Anne (Caren Pistorius), who is dating an extreme surfer, are quirky additions to the cast. Meanwhile, Arnold’s family adds more conflict to the story: his ex-wife and daughters still hold him on a leash, complicating his relationship with Gloria. His family calls at the most inopportune times, such as when he and Gloria are ready to get intimate. He immediately chooses them over her.
While both characters have trouble navigating these turbulent waters, the film focuses heavily on Gloria’s own triumph of experimentation and overcoming her dependence on Arnold. Moore delivers another top-notch performance and demonstrates why she will always remain one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed actresses. She allows the character to brew internally, giving the audience mere glimpses into what lies below the surface, but this makes the character all the more intriguing. Gloria maintains a facade, never wanting to take any major risks — even as an insurance agent, she tells people that it’s better to be safe than sorry in their lives. But it is through letting go and crashing into an intense relationship that she begins to open up and take chances, finding her own agency in life. Moore keeps Gloria’s presence at bay, but through the release of tension bit by bit, we see a new woman emerge.
Turturro also gives a fine-tuned performance in what could have easily been a throwaway role. The character of Arnold on paper seems extremely difficult to make likable or even sympathetic, especially with the added complication of his ex-wife to whom he is ever-loyal. Turturro does a fantastic job playing the role with such honest emotion that it allows the audience to relate to Arnold when they least expect it.
Matthew Herbert’s score for this film is also something to be applauded. It draws your attention without shifting your focus from what is happening on-screen. Unique and pleasantly surprising, it is integral to the film’s success.
A director remaking one of his past films can go wrong in many ways, yet Lelio has done an outstanding job at reinvigorating his work. The casting is spectacular — each actor seems so in-touch with their character that the audience can truly relate to them. The way all the aspects of Gloria’s life come together and interact on-screen is captivating and makes the film a truly entrancing watch.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Mar. 4, 2019, print edition. Email Kaylee DeFreitas at [email protected]