Julianne Moore has turned in some amazing performances over the last three decades and I think most movie fans would find it hard to disagree with that sentiment. Her roles in such films as Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Short Cuts and Far From Heaven, to name just a few, spring readily to mind when I think of some of the sublime work she’s turned out since the early 90s. Her latest film, Gloria Bell, features a performance that can easily stand toe to toe with any of her work in those aforementioned films. It’s an acting turn that’s both humorous and heartbreaking in equal measure but always grounded in reality.
If we haven’t known someone like the title character at some point then there’s a good chance that we’ve been in a position similar to the one that she finds herself stuck in at this critical juncture in the character’s life. Gloria Bell is in her early to mid 50s. Her life has reached a point where she’s just going through the motions and it’s becoming blatantly obvious to her that she needs to shake things up. Having been divorced for quite some time she is, as the old adage goes, ready to take a chance again. We see her putting herself out there in the strange and unchartered territory that is the nightlife of LA. She finds joy in the simple act of dancing and strikes up conversations with total strangers. She sings in the car to pop songs of her youth such as the Olivia Newton John hit, A Little More Love. This is a woman who is attempting to find a life when life has become by the numbers and routine.
All of that changes when Gloria chances to meet Arnold (John Turturro) one night while out dancing, having put in a day of work selling insurance. The problem is that Arnold is afraid to move ahead and insists on letting his grown children dictate his chance for happiness. Gloria, on the other hand, is fairly sure of what she wants which leads to friction in the growing relationship between the two.
The film, Gloria Bell, is not about plot so those expecting a grand story arch will find it a bit lacking. It’s more about the joy that is to be found in life if we allow it. The moments, if you will. Julianne Moore articulates this as well as anyone and the casting is pure perfection. Aided by the sure hand of director Sebastian Lelio, who previously made the same film a few years back in Spanish and simply titled, is sweet and low key but also has a way of sticking with you long after the credits have rolled. It’s an effective piece of work that manages to impress in its own unique way.
Image: Julianna Moore in Gloria Bell
Gloria Bell is playing playing in Charlotte.
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