GLORIA BELL begins and ends with Julianne Moore dancing at a club in an 80’s setting. The era is never mentioned but can be deduced from the 80’s song playlist and from the wardrobe and hair style of the characters. Chilean director Leila has been known to effectively use and bring to life his films with the use of a singular song, the most notable and remembered being Richard Burton’s rendering of the song CAMELOT from the stage musical in Leilo’s film JACKIE about Jackie Kennedy. In GLORIA BELL, Gloria Gayor’s ‘”Never Can Say Goodbye” begins the film while the popular 80’s song “Gloria” closes it.
GLORIA BELL is described in the press notes as a film on mature dating. The film opens with Gloria on the dance floor. Gloria Bell (Julianna Moore) introduces herself to a stranger (and to the audience) as Gloria Bell, a divorcee of 12 odd years. She meets in the same night, Arnold (John Torturro) who she eventually begins a relationship with, after some hot sex, in which nothing much can be seen much but much can be heard, which means the audience will get the point.
Gloria has been on the dating scene for a while – probably for 12 years or so, judging from her behaviour. She is not eager to begin a relationship right away but is not opposed to the idea either.
For a film about mature dating, the film covers all the points about its problems. These include:
– the baggage that each member brings to the relationship with each having their own children and each with their own set of problems
- the discomfort of still dating at such a late age; Arnold \ has qualms about telling his children about Gloria, obviously embarrassed at the situation
- jealousies that flare up; Arnold is uncomfortable when Gloria shows affection for her ex (Sean Astin) at her son’s (Michael Cera) birthday party
- each member is set in their own stubborn ways and behaviour; Arnold in leaving Gloria when trouble arise
- disapproval and constant questioning of the children; as it happens at Gloria’s son’s birthday party
The song, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again, Naturally” that is heard right in the middle of the film again is effectively used by Leilo to put his story in perspective.
Leilo’s film benefits from the performances of its actors, which are key for a dating drama of this sort. Moore and Torturro are both excellent, especially Torturro who obviously has toned down his usual manic performances. It is good too to see Michael Sera in the role of Gloria’s son, Cera being absent from the screen for some time.
The script is also smart enough not to take sides. Both Arnold and Gloria have their valid reasons for each fight and one could side with either, despite being male or female. The film’s subplots, like Gloria’s expecting daughter taking off to Sweden to marry her beau also enhances rather than distracts the main story.
GLORIA BELL is not full of surprises (in fact, if the film seems strangely familiar, you could have seen Leilo’s original Spanish 2013 version called GLORIA which was set in Santiago) but it serves a realistic slice of life mature dating, with all its pitfalls and bright spots. It is an entertaining watch to see ourselves in similar situations.