Gloria Bell

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Gloria Bell

Runtime 101 minutes R

In Los Angeles, Gloria (Julianne Moore) is a more or less devil-may-care divorcée in her 50s. Not exactly bored with life, when she’s not working in an office, she goes to clubs and dances the night away. One night she hooks up with Arnold (John Turturro), and as he courts her aggressively she finds herself falling for him.

Director Sebastian Lelio has made this film once before, Gloria (2013), in a Spanish language version. He met Moore in 2015 and she told him how entranced she was about the film, and prevailed upon him to make it again with her as the star. The conversation went something like this:

Moore: “I would only do this if you directed.”

Lelio: “I would only direct it if you were in it.”

So here it is, and a compelling film it is. Lelio didn’t alter much (changing the locale from Santiago to Los Angeles is one). Moore and Turturro do fine jobs of acting and Lelio directs with a keen sense of pace for a film that’s mostly talk.

The characters each ring true. There’s one scene in which Gloria takes Albert to a party with her son and ex-husband (Brad Garrett) and his new wife (Jeanne Tripplehorn), and Albert clearly feels like he’s not a part of the group. It is reminiscent of the scene in Kramer v. Kramer (1979) where a depressed Dustin Hoffman sits all alone even though he’s surrounded by people having a great time at a Christmas party. This is displayed realistically and many single people will be able to identify with his feeling of exclusion.

Moore is apparently inordinately proud of her breasts (and she has a right to be), because she takes every opportunity to display them throughout the film, even though the scenes clearly could have been shot without toplessness. In one of them, she and Turturro are in bed. He is shot from behind his right ear and she’s lying across from him with her left breast centered throughout the entire scene. Ah, if only it had been in 3D. If ever a scene epitomized Susan Sarandon’s comment that whenever she appears topless her breasts always upstage her, this one does.

However, I find the endless graphic scenes of intercourse in today’s movies off-putting. Scenes of people kissing and necking are romantic. Scenes of them engaging in actual sex with all the breathlessness and moaning and groaning come across as just so much acting. I actually feel embarrassed for the actors who must feign such ersatz passion. Better to mimic the old days where they neck a little and then fade out, leaving the actual deed to the imagination. Whenever I see these scenes I’m reminded of the truth of Lord Chesterfield’s comment about sex, “the pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable.” Showing people humping is a long way from romantic.

However, on the plus side is the music. Gloria listens to lots of songs as she’s driving around. Among the clips are “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” performed by Bonnie Tyler, “Gloria” (what else?), performed by Laura Brannigan, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again Naturally,” performed by Chris Mulkey & Cassi Thomson, “All Out of Love,” performed by Air Supply, and many more. While I yearned for them to play one or more in its entirety, the portions they do play add to the treat of this rather dark, but thoroughly enjoyable, movie.

Tony Medley is an MPAA-accredited film critic. See more reviews at TonyMedley.com.

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