Film Review: GLORIA BELL (USA/Chile 2018) ***

Gloria Bell Poster

A free-spirited woman in her 50s seeks out love at L.A. dance clubs.


Sebastián Lelio


Alice Johnson Boher (adapted screenplay), Sebastián Lelio | 1 more credit »

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.



FILM PREVIEW OF COCO (Opening November 2017)

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cocoCoco follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel who sets off a chain of events relating to a century-old mystery, leading to an extraordinary family reunion.

Directors: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Writers: Adrian Molina, Lee Unkrich (based on an original idea by)
Stars: Alanna Ubach, Benjamin Bratt, Gael García Bernal

Review by Gilbert Seah

This morning (Friday 23rd June, 2017) at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, film critics were treated to a delicious breakfast and presentation preview of Disney Pixar’s latest animated feature COCO to open coming November.

Coco is a 3D computer-animated fantasy adventure film based on an original idea by Lee Unkrich. The film is directed by Unkrich, and co-directed and written by Adrian Molina.

The plot involves a 12-year old Miguel (voiced by newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) whose family has banned music as his great, great grandfather had left his family to become a great musician. Despite his family’s generation-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the Land of the Dead. The Festival of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico for the time when the dead crosses the border to be with the living. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) and together they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.

The presentation was supposed to be presented by the film’s two directors and Academy Award-winning producer Darla K. Anderson. But Lee Unkrich had to stay behind to finish the film, so co-director Molina and Anderson were left, but they did deliver an awesome presentation.

The presentation began by showing the first 10 minutes of COCO’s opening, where the history of his family and the ban of music originated. The last part of the piece is still not coloured and shown in storyboard form. But one cannot mistake the magic of Disney, present throughout the 10 minutes. The finished product will undoubtedly be something unforgettable.

Other clips include Coco at the singing competition and another with Coco and his pal, Hector in the Land of the Dead. The common thread in all of these is the magnificent colour palette that makes COCO standout among other Pixar features.

Besides clips from the film, there is a clip that showed Disney staff surprising Anthony Gonzalez that he got the part for voicing Miguel. This clip shows the family atmosphere of Disney that makes the Studio great.

Co-director Molina’s mother is Mexican, so he bring a lot of his own heritage into the film. A troupe of COCO’s filmmakers also travelled and stayed in Mexico for a time, according to what was said during he presentation.

The presentation concluded with a Question and Answer section with the critics – nothing to write home about, since us critics are not the most imaginative people alive, questions or what not.

COCO opens in November and is certainly going to be an event to watch out for. Do click on the link below to watch the trailer for COCO.


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