From the Archives: I think we got your number, Gloria Bell

From the Archives: I think we got your number, Gloria Bell

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.

Originally posted on Cinema76.

A few years back I caught the trailer for a Chilean film simply titled Gloria. It looked to be a rambunctious romcom about a middle aged woman taking control of her life. It’s the type of thing I’d usually dismiss out of general disinterest, but something about the trailer really delighted me. The film seemed to have some pop to it. Some energy. I remember chuckling a few times at the humor, as well as thinking that the film looked to be a cut above the rest of its ilk. What I remember most about the trailer was the soundtrack. It was set to a handful of disco tunes, but ended on a cover of Laura Branigan’s ‘Gloria” that was sung entirely in another language (I think it was Italian).

Something about the way a new language altered the musicality of a classic tune really stuck with me. It awakened in me a new appreciation for a song that I had long since forgotten. I love when this happens, and this time around it all but assured that I would be seeing Gloria.

But then I didn’t. Not even when it popped up on Netflix for a bit.

I’m lazy. Sue me.

But as things go, Gloria has now been remade in English as Gloria Bell. Same director, same writer, new cast. Basically, it’s the Funny Games treatment but with romance instead of murder and John Turturro instead of Michael Pitt.

Having still never seen Gloria, I cannot compare the two, but if the trailer I loved so dearly is to be believed, Gloria Bell is a shot for shot for shot for shot remake. And if Gloria Bell is to be believed, Gloria is probably very good.

Julianne Moore plays our titular hero. She’s divorced, she lives alone. She doesn’t have a cat, but there is a cat that frequently breaks into her apartment for companionship. Her daughter (Caren Pistorious) is on the verge of moving overseas with her fiancé, and her son (Michael Cera) is dealing with relationship/parenthood problems of his own. Gloria spends her nights at a singles disco, and her days toiling away in an office. She sings in the car, does yoga, and acts as an emotional rock for everyone in her life.

One night she meets Arnold (John Turturro), a recently divorced father, and the two begin an adorable romance. The trials and tribulations of adulthood, family, and the ever changing beast we call “self esteem” threaten to get in the way at every turn, and it’s up to Gloria to assert herself on the world and obtain the love and validation she deserves.

It’s rather light fare overall, but that doesn’t mean it’s thematically weak. The script, penned by Sebastián Leilo (who also directed) and Alice Johnson Boher, deals with the stressors of life in a way that is honest an relatable to anyone fortunate enough to be breathing. Ambiguities in the plot are purposeful and many, each serving to make things feel that much more real. We don’t always get the answers we seek in our lives, and Gloria Bell reflects that. For example, I have a theory as to what’s going on with Gloria’s insane neighbor, but it’s based entirely in assumptions and loose context clues (feel free to ask me once you’ve seen it).

Julianne Moore truly is one of the greatest of all time, and it’s a delight to watch her bring her peppy gravitas to a role that many would have seen fit to lean on trope to portray. John Turturro, once our go to “awkward, pathetic guy,” has aged into an unlikely romantic lead, and as we peel back the layers of his Arnold it becomes clear how much he’s bringing to the table as an actor. The romance between the two leads makes sense, as do the troubles that come of it.

It’s an interesting move for Leilo, whose A Fantastic Woman took home the foreign language Oscar just last year, to remake a film from his own canon, but as evidenced by my own experience, it’s a smart move. I still haven’t seen Gloria, but after Gloria Bell, I will absolutely be seeking it out.

A final note: The cinematography by Natasha Braier (The Neon Demon) uses a color palette that introduces gold to the typical blue/red/purple nightclub aesthetic (the “pop tart” look — thanks, Garrett), that really shouldn’t look as inviting as it does. Fantastic work.

Gloria Bell opens in Philly theaters today.

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