Gloria Bell is a concert masquerading as a film, and a film masquerading as a concert. Transposing the action from Santiago to the streets (and dancefloors) of LA, Sebastián Lelio’s second English-language feature – a remake of his 2013 Chilean romcom Gloria – sees a bespectacled Julianne Moore scour nightclubs looking for love, all the while singing along flatly to 80s power ballads. Her song and dance with new flame Arnold (John Turturro) takes the divorced mother of two all the way to Vegas, but ultimately leaves her stranded far from home.
For all its loud music, the feature revels in silence. Gloria and Arnold’s courtship unfolds over a series of laconic exchanges, moving from the dancefloor to the bar to bed with a few sparse sentences. Throughout, glances and gestures do most of the talking. The silences create an atmosphere that is gloomy and wistful, but often also comical, as when the camera focuses on the face of Gloria’s ex-husband (Brad Garrett) after he’s received the news that their daughter’s unborn baby is the size of the olive he’s about to eat.
These sudden tonal shifts are informed by the rhythm of editing. Scenes open and close as abruptly as Gloria’s relationships begin and end. The relentless staccato perhaps mirrors the 50-something’s fragmented existence. Alone since her divorce, with two grown-up children (Michael Cera, Caren Pistorius) who she rarely sees together, Gloria’s life has become compartmentalised, its different areas bridgeable only by long tearful drives filled with melancholy music.
Lelio’s LA remake explores isolation without succumbing to despair. If the film feels sad at times, it’s also uplifting and touching at others. In a way that is both poignant and funny, Moore gives life to a character increasingly aware of the fragility of love and happiness. In the end, however, it’s Gloria’s sense of resilience that is most remarkable.
Moore has said she loved the original so much she wanted to be in it. It’s easy to see why. Whoever watches Gloria Bell will sing the actor’s praises, as well as singing along with her as she belts out timeless classics in her very modern sedan.
Gloria Bell is released in select cinemas on 7th June 2019.
Watch the trailer for Gloria Bell here: