SP Review: "Gloria Bell" gives Julianne Moore an impressive dance

Arts and culture reporter Brandon King gives "Gloria Bell" 7/10 stars

I might be one of the few critics you'll encounter who has no problems with the amount of remakes coming out in recent years. I see no reason not to try a different approach to a story if a new idea, concept or filmmaking technique comes along because even if it fails, the original still exists in all its glory. 

So when Sebastián Lelio announced that he would be doing a remake of his 2013 film, "Gloria," I thought he should give it a try. Granted, even with my own optimism, there has been a mixed track record with directors remaking their own films versus letting someone else take a shot. I was a bit anxious on that basis alone, even with the announcement that Julianne Moore, one of arguably the most talented actresses working today, would be leading the project. 

What Lelio ends up delivering is a film that is one of the better examples of directors remaking their own films. I'll openly say that "Gloria Bell" isn't a movie that immediately hooks you. However, the charm, sensitivity and a surprising lack of cynicism are actually quite admirable, anchored by another tremendous performance out of Moore. 

The film follows Gloria Bell (played by Moore), an office worker in her mid-50s in Los Angeles. Gloria is a divorcee of several years who has two adult children she sees periodically: Peter (played by Michael Cera) and Anne (played by Caren Pistorius), and spends most of her nights at a local dance club.

During a night of dancing, Gloria meets Arnold (played by John Turturro), another divorcee who sparks a budding romance with her. The two initially hit it off, but begin to face complications due to their vastly different lives, with Gloria herself facing questions of how to find and accept love in her life.

If nothing else, the heart of this film is worth exploring, specifically Moore's performance as the title character. She envelops every corner of this movie with a sense of delightful grace about her, and the movie wouldn't work as well without her. The most interesting thing about the character is, like I mentioned earlier, her unbridled sense of optimism.

She wants to experience life, go out dancing and find someone to enjoy it with, without the character ever becoming naive or overly bubbly. I don't think anyone reading this review can't identify with that notion of believing that love can improve a dull life, and Moore really makes it feel free of cliché. 

It's these ideas that make her romance with Arthur compelling. Initially, the two seem inseparable, but as time passes, you see Arthur backing away for reasons that become increasingly muddled. At first, that choice didn't work for me because I thought it was the movie simply making excuses for men who don't take relationships seriously. Rather, it ends up being a boost for Gloria's character and allows us to see that perseverance in this kind of state. 

The film isn't trying to give us a "happy ending." The romance is a key plot point, but the plot is secondary, and we're meant to focus on Gloria and not what goes on around her. Gloria staying true to herself is the payoff that the traditional romantic comedy angle gives, and in this case, it definitely comes off as authentic. 

There are some things that didn't entirely work for me about "Gloria Bell." Its writing feels a bit underwritten, which could be attributed to giving the actors more time to breathe, or staying within the lane of the original (both of which occur here.) Yet, sometimes it feels like the dialogue wasn't given a second thought. 

In addition, the pacing sometimes feels like it drudges along, hoping to find the next thing to get to. Granted, in a film like this with a lower reliance on story, this isn't an inherently bad thing. A film can have slow pacing to it if it feels balanced, but this certainly wasn't doing it for me. These things don't kill the movie, but they do lead to one that seems a bit wobbly.

I'm not falling head over heels for "Gloria Bell" like some other critics are, but I did end up warming up to the kind of film it was going for. As underwritten and simple as it can be, Sebastián Lelio gets points for keeping a laser focus on it's main character, which Moore effortlessly crafts into an empowering, relatable symbol. Whatever merits the film may have lost on me, there's still enough good stuff to give it a chance, or in this case, a dance. 

Overall, I give "Gloria Bell" a rating of 7/10 stars.


Reach the reporter at brandon.D.King@asu.edu or follow @TheMovieKing45 on Twitter.

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