Gloria Bell: Dancing Queen

John Turturro and Julianne Moore in Gloria Bell

Gloria Bell  
*****
Rating: R
Run Time: 1 hour 42 minutes

Stars: Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Holland Taylor, Brad Garrett, Rita Wilson
Writers: Alice Johnson Boher, Sebastian Lelio
Director: Sebastian Lelio

Is it too early to start a short list for next year’s Best Actress Oscar? I don’t care—just pencil in Julianne Moore for her heart-stopping performance in this seamless Americanization of the landmark 2013 Chilean film,Gloria

Writer/director Sebastian Lelio (A Fantastic Woman), who created the original, follows lonely Gloria as she looks for love, or at least some level of connection, in a sterile Los Angeles. 

Is there an actress with a sadder smile than Moore? Maybe it’s her ever-dewy eyes that betray the quiet mournfulness that often lurks in her characters. Her Gloria exists—perhaps more comfortably than she should—in a twilight zone of happy independence and yearning for meaningful companionship. To that end, after her days at the office she heads out to the single bar scene—hanging mostly with folks who invented the scene back in the 1980s. There, she dances…and dances—with an abandon that borders on the enthralling and the desperate. 

There she meets an eligible bachelor named Arnold (John Turturro) who seems to check off every box of her wish list — until she realizes he’s under the meaty thumbs of his grown, irresponsible daughters. The guy is clearly smitten with Gloria for all the right reasons, but time after time, when faced with a choice between nurturing their relationship or responding to the selfish snap of his daughters’ fingers, Arnold makes the wrong choice. 

We share Gloria’s growing exasperation — and want to stand up and cheer when she administers one of the all-time great comeuppances in screen history. 

Every supporting player is first-rate, especially Holland Taylor as Gloria’s mom, Rita Wilson as her best pal, Brad Garrett as Gloria’s put-upon ex-hubby — and Sean Astin in a wordless cameo as a Vegas high roller. 

The film’s showcase scenes are memorable, but most unforgettable is the sight and sound of Gloria, driving toward the sunset on Wilshire Boulevard, singing her little heart out to the radio, self-medicating with 80s oldies.   

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Published by

Bill Newcott

Award-Winning Film Critic, TV Host and Creator of AARP's Movies For Grownups, Bill focuses on movies that have something to say...and a unique way of saying it

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