Chilean director Sebastian Lelio's English-language remake of his own breakout 2013 dramedy "Gloria," the delicate and funny "Gloria Bell" offers a bittersweet portrait of life and love in middle age. Anchored by Julianne Moore's lovely, un-showy lead performance, the film follows the vibrant, 50-something Gloria as she embarks on a new romance on her way to finding a renewed sense of joy and lust for life.
With oversized glasses and an easy laugh, Gloria is sweet-natured, and occasionally a bit short-tempered. She has a stable, if unfulfilling management job at an insurance office. But more than anything she loves to dance, frequenting a singles night club when she feels the urge to cut loose. It's there that she meets fellow divorcee Arnold (John Turturro), a somewhat reserved military vet. After a lovely night together, Arnold asks to see her again; suddenly and quite unexpectedly, Gloria finds herself entering the unfamiliar territory of late-in-life dating.
The director lends the film his European sensibility; not much happens in "Gloria Bell" and plot comes secondary as Lelio, and co-writer Alice Johnson Boher, give us a sense of Gloria's life in quick, broad strokes. She has her two grown children (Michael Cera and Caren Pistorius) with whom she has a loving but somewhat distant relationship, a self-sufficient mother (the always welcome Holland Taylor), and a relatively friendly connection to her ex-husband (Brad Garrett), who she's been divorced from for more than a decade.
Gloria has some anxieties about getting older, but she has a full life even before she begins seeing Arnold. Her main troubles are a growing concern for her mentally ill upstairs neighbor, and a hairless cat that inexplicably manages to sneak its way into her apartment every day.
The romance between Gloria and Arnold eventually faces some speed bumps, largely arising from his two emotionally- and financially-needy daughters, who have a dependent relationship with their father -- one that goes both ways more than he'd care to admit. He also has a terrible tendency to let his insecurities get the best of him.
Lelio won an Oscar for his "A Fantastic Woman," and his latest shares similarities to that story of a woman who takes a lot of shit before coming out the other side even stronger than before. Along with those films and last year's "Disobedience," the filmmaker has a knack for compelling stories of women who possess more inner strength than the world likes to gives them credit for.
A showcase for the wonderful Julianne Moore, "Gloria Bell" is a character study of a person we seldom get to see in the movies these days (unless she's playing a commander or scientist in a Marvel movie): a confident woman over 50. Lelio's film lets us watch her face down setbacks with grace and dignity, on its way to a joyous ending that remind us, no matter what life may toss your way, sometimes all you can do is keep on dancing.