Sebastian Lelio’s “Gloria Bell” – which is a remake of the Chilean director’s own 2013 movie “Gloria” – provides a solid showcase for Julianne Moore and does a decent job of capturing the desperation and loneliness of being alone at a certain age. The film isn’t, perhaps, as strong as its source material, but as far as remakes go, it’s a pretty good one.
In the film, Moore plays the titular character, a woman who works at an insurance agency, still consults her elderly mother for life decisions, has two children who love her but are caught up in their own lives and hasn’t had a very successful love life after having divorced 12 years earlier.
As the film opens, we get the sense that “Gloria Bell” could end up being a film in the mold of “The Meddler,” the charming film in which Susan Sarandon couldn’t stay out of her grown up daughter’s business. There are some scenes early in Lelio’s film when it appears that Gloria is trying to live vicariously through her children – but we soon learn that they have their problems of their own. Her daughter, Anne (Caren Pistorius), is smitten with a Swedish surfer and is trying to decide whether she will move to Scandinavia, while her son, Peter (Michael Cera), has a newborn child and a seemingly absentee wife.
We come to learn that Gloria wants to be the center of someone’s universe. The only individual who consistently pays her attention is a scrawny cat that manages time and time again to break into her house. Gloria spends many of her evenings at a social club for adults that seems to have the entire disco canon in its repertoire. There, she meets Arnold (John Turturro), a divorcee who pursues her vigorously, but refuses to introduce her to his grown daughters – whom we finally meet in a hilarious scene late in the picture. He also appears to be at his daughters’ beckon call at any given moment.
Part of “Gloria Bell” focuses on Gloria and Arnold’s on-again, off-again relationship. There are moments when we can sympathize with both of them. There’s a particularly awkward scene during which Arnold is invited to a family gathering, only to have Gloria sit and reminisce with family members and ignore him completely. It’s also hard not to feel bad for Gloria as Arnold constantly runs off to take phone calls from his daughters and ex-wife.
“Gloria Bell” isn’t quite as impressive as Lelio’s recent Oscar winner “A Fantastic Woman,” and last year’s “Disobedience” is also slightly better. But Moore is a great actress to have as your lead, and she ends up driving the film. For much of the picture, Gloria is somewhat of a lost soul, searching for her life’s meaning by attempting to connect with the aloof people in her life. During a party at the film’s end, she takes to the dance floor and it’s obvious that she has found her inner freedom. “Gloria Bell” is an often funny and occasionally moving story about navigating through the loneliness that can be involved in growing old.