Sunday 24 March 2019

Movie Review: Gloria Bell (2018)

A romantic drama, Gloria Bell explores second chances at love and all the attached luggage weighing down new opportunities.

In Los Angeles, middle-aged Gloria (Julianne Moore) has been divorced for 12 years. She works as an insurance agent and tries to stay involved in the lives of her grown children, son Peter (Michael Cera) and daughter Anne (Caren Pistorius). But most of all Gloria likes to dance at a retro discotheque, where she eventually meets Arnold (John Turturro), who has been divorced for a year.

They start a relationship which quickly turns serious, although Arnold appears to be tethered to his two grown but emotionally immature daughters. An evening that brings Gloria together with her two children and ex-husband Dustin (Brad Garrett) ends badly for Arnold, and threatens Gloria's budding attempt at a new romance.

Chilean director Sebasti├ín Lelio remakes his own 2013 drama Gloria, this time in English and with Julianne Moore in radiant perfection mode. Devoid of a traditional narrative structure and not free of meandering stretches, the film ambles along, tracing Gloria's ups and downs. Moore at least ensures that even the seemingly mundane scenes of club dancing and car radio singalongs carry the warmth of a genuine and expansive human spirit.

The emotional luggage accumulated by middle age is given a physical representation in the large bag Arnold places in Gloria's trunk. It carries his paintball paraphernalia, but symbolically weighs down their relationship with all his insecurities, mistakes and lingering dependencies. His phone is the rope, a metaphorical strangulation device interrupting the oxygen needed for the romance with Gloria to survive.

She is not without her issues, worrying about daughter Anne falling in love with a wandering Swedish surfer and son Peter already abandoned by his wife and left caring for a newborn infant on his own. Not to mention a colourless job, a hairless cat and a suicidal upstairs neighbour adding plenty of angst to what should be quiet time.

But at least Gloria is open about her life and has a semblance of balance between her personal needs and her family responsibilities. Arnold is falling through the cracks, and Gloria will use every device she knows, from companionship to sex to estrangement, in an attempted emotional rescue.

Gloria Bell features touches of humour to lighten the mood, the persistent hairless cat seeking to adopt Gloria a regular source of brief but welcome distraction. Gloria has to decide whether to allow a damaged man and an ugly cat into her life, as the unexpected challenges of middle age range from profound to bizarre.

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