“Gloria Bell” is a charming slice-of-life, whether you’re on a date or flying solo

Sebastián Lelio follows up ‘A Fantastic Woman’ with a remake of his 2013 film ‘Gloria,’ featuring an intimate, aching performance from Julianne Moore.

Sebastián Lelio’s “Gloria Bell” is the second film this year to end with the Laura Branigan song “Gloria”. The kind of high-energy empowerment anthem that recasts its leading lady in a different light. The other being Netflix’s recent Gloria Allred docu “Seeing Allred.”. Speaking of recasting leading ladies, it also happens to be the second of Lelio’s films to close with that song. Although there’s a perfectly good explanation for that: “Gloria Bell” is a nearly scene-for-scene remake of the “A Fantastic Woman” director’s 2013 single-woman drama. This time in English and featuring Julianne Moore in the role that earned Paulina García the Berlin Film Festival’s best actress prize.

Many were skeptical when the project was announced, much as they were to the news that Jack Nicholson might star in an American version of “Toni Erdmann,”. And yet Moore insisted in this case that if she were to play the role, Lelio must agree to direct. And so we get a film that shares the original’s generous view of the title character — of all its characters, really — along with a great many of its creative choices.

But even with the same director and nearly the same script. “Gloria” and “Gloria Bell” are hardly the same movie, in the way that no two stagings of “Hamlet”. That can be the same when cast with different leading men. And it’s easy to imagine audiences who showed no interest in a Spanish-language version. That of this story responding to what Moore does with the role when A24 releases it next spring.

No one ever asks Gloria Bell her age (rather, they pose that more complimentary of L.A. questions.

“Have you had work done?”), though the still-gorgeous fiftysomething has perhaps a decade left till retirement. And has been divorced for roughly a decade from husband Dustin (Brad Garrett). Now remarried (to Jeanne Tripplehorn), with two grown kids (Michael Cera and Alanna Ubach) whose slightly expanded roles are one of the film’s improvements.

As before, “Gloria Bell” opens in a singles bar. The kind that caters to those who no longer get carded — where Gloria, who loves to dance, sits alone at the bar with her back to the audience. She’s not exactly the type who stands out in a crowd, and yet the camera notices her. Which is precisely the thing that sets Lelio’s sensibility apart from other filmmakers.

It’s a simple fact of modern society that in their 20s, people naturally tend to be egotists, perceiving themselves as the center of the universe. Whereas Gloria has reached the point at which she doesn’t really see herself. That as the main character in her life anymore, instead defining herself in relation to others — as a parent, friend, or co-worker. Lelio corrects this, turning the attention back on this fantastic woman. That in much the same way he recognized a Chilean trans character as the rightful protagonist of his Oscar-winning “A Fantastic Woman.”

There’s a risk that such sensitivity can come across as patronizing, which sort of happens in the 2013 film.

One can almost feel a younger Lelio asking the audience to acknowledge the sheer humanism displayed in making a movie about a sad, single-again mid-life woman. Maybe that’s reading too much into the original “Gloria,”. Although the tone is softer here, more relatable — which, of course, is the point: not panhandling for pity but inviting identification with three-dimensional characters who’ve started to question. Whether they’re still entitled to the kind of hopes and dreams younger people take for granted.

Life is like a carousel. An airport carousel. The longer it goes on, the more baggage it collects.

That’s about all you need to know about Gloria Bell, which is the name both of the character played by Julianne Moore and of the movie. That is a remake of the 2013 foreign-language charmer Gloria from Chilean writer/director Sébastián Lelio.

Lelio has recreated his own movie for non-subtitle-reading audiences with. It must be said, a high degree of fidelity. Original actress Paulina García, striking but also clearly in her 50s, gives way to Moore, who turns 59 this year.

Beautiful but hardly glamorous under a sensible haircut and large glasses. Moore delivers a naturalistic performance that looks so effortless you know it’s not. A three-dimensional character without the need for 3D glasses; what will they think of next?

The beats are the same as in the original. Gloria meets fellow divorced parent Arnold (John Turturro) during a night out at a club.

They hit it off; he reads her a love poem by Claudio Bertoni (in translation) and takes her to the amusement park he runs. It for a little bungee-jumping and paintball.

Meanwhile – because we are more than the sum of our prime romantic relationships, dammit! – Gloria visits her children (Michael Cera, Caren Pistorius), spends time with her mom and work colleagues. Goes to the eye doctor; sings along with the car radio (not badly but not perfectly either). And deals with a noisy neighbour and a mysterious hairless cat that keeps infiltrating her apartment.

She calls her kids regularly – signing off with “this is your mother,” in case it’s not clear. But also knows not to overstep their personal boundaries. Once they’re out of the nest, you have to let them fly on their own.

The effect is to sketch out a life in all its messy detail, and to let us know that Gloria is already complete without a man. (The not-so-subtle message to viewers: So are you!)

INFO:

Rating: R (for sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Directed By: Sebastián Lelio
Stars: Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Caren Pistorius
Written By: Sebastián Lelio
In Theaters: Mar 22, 2019 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: May 21, 2019
Runtime: 102 minutes
Studio: A24

CRITIC REVIEWS FOR GLORIA BELL

Claudia Puig
[Julianne Moore] is always terrific, but she gives an especially terrific, well-rounded performance here. It’s nuanced, vulnerable, strong, funny, emotionally rich and textured.

Charlotte O’Sullivan
The result isn’t better than the 2013 original but it’s just as good.

Ed Potton
Whether she’s dealing with conflicts at work, doing laugh therapy sessions, or smoking weed on the floor of her apartment while the Californian sunlight slants through the window, this is a Bell that chimes.

Ella Kemp
There are low moments, flat moments and unconvincing moments – but Gloria deserves to be protected at all costs.

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