Director Sebastian Lelio, with an adapted screenplay that Alice Johnson Boher wrote with him, has remade his poignant “Gloria,” shifting the story from Chile to Los Angeles and presenting Julianne Moore in the title role of a divorced woman looking for happiness.
Moore is a formidable actress, who makes Gloria come vividly alive as she loves to dance and hopes to meet a nice guy. Moore’s performance contributes freshness to this reincarnation, although my memory is that the story set in Chile had a harder edge. John Turturro is compelling as Arnold, the man who comes into her life. Together they give the film heft and poignancy, and the overall effect is that “Gloria Bell” seems thoroughly original and stands on its own as if one had never heard about or seen the original.
The problem Gloria faces is that Arnold, who says he is divorced from his wife but not his two daughters, is that his loyalty to those daughters trumps his loyalty to Gloria, whom he sincerely comes to love.
He feels humiliated in a scene in which Gloria, who has two grown children of her own, attends a birthday party at which her ex-husband and his new mate are there, and pictures of Gloria and her ex are dragged out, which much chatter about when they were in love. Arnold quite properly feels totally left out and ignored and quietly leaves.
There is a breakup and a reunion, and Arnold takes Gloria on a trip, but it turns out to be a disaster when he gets a demanding call from one of his daughters. Gloria must find a way to assert herself and carry on as a woman composed with a new sense of dignity even though her quest for love is still unfulfilled. There is a very funny send-off into the next phase of her life, which we don’t see, but might make for a sequel.
In the course of her sexual relationship with Arnold, there is a scene in which Moore sits for a long time with her breasts exposed. Is that really necessary? Moore seems to be cool with that sort of exposure. In a film by Robert Altman she stood with her lower body exposed and subsequently quipped in an interview that Altman received a double boon because, she noted, her hair is naturally red.
Nudity aside, Julianne’s performance is profound and touching one that earns sympathy and hope that Gloria will permanently find Mr. Right, who would lavish her with the love and respect that she deserves. Turturro’s Arnold almost makes the grade but emotionally he simply isn’t free. An A24 release. Reviewed March 13, 2019.