This beguiling, frustrating film is noteworthy for two reasons: a gleaming performance by Julianne Moore, and the fact that it is a remake by Chilean director Sebastian Lelio of his own film, 2013’s Gloria.
Save the surname appended to the title and the new LA setting, Lelio has changed little from the original. Moore stars as the eponymous Gloria, a fifty-something divorcee who forges a hesitant relationship with Arnold (John Turturro), an ex-marine who now runs a paintball company.
Both are wrestling with the anxieties, immediate and existential, of late-middle age, of which Lelio is a watchful, sympathetic observer. Their problems are different – Gloria’s kids (Caren Pistorious and Michael Cera) aren’t much interested in her anymore, while Arnold’s cling to him like limpets – but the underlying worries are the same: the fear of loneliness, of invisibility, the desperate need to cling to a past that feels like it’s fast disappearing.
This is richly textured filmmaking, full of short, dreamy scenes, and overlaid by a near-constant soundscape of mellifluous hums and whistles oddly reminiscent of Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack. It is also frequently very funny – one scene, in which Gloria invites Arnold to an intimate birthday party also attended by her ex-husband, is a miniature masterpiece of bourgeois awkwardness.
The problem, and it seems a strange thing to say about such accomplished filmmaking, is that Gloria Bell is actually quite dull. Nothing especially interesting happens, there are very few interesting conversations, and apart from Gloria, none of the characters seem interested in the contents of the plot.
Given all this, it’s no surprise that the film’s success rests almost entirely on its starring performance. And for this alone it’s worth watching: Moore, on screen for the whole film, is magnificent, investing Gloria with a tenderness and generosity that belies her slender scripting.