Chilean director Sebastian Lelio is not the first director to remake one of his own movies for American audiences (think Alfred Hitchcock with The Man Who Knew Too Much). His 2013 film Gloria met with universal acclaim from critics as an honest and realistic portrait of a 50-year-old woman making ends meet. After the success of his first English-language film Disobedience, he casts Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore in a role of a lifetime. She leads a terrific ensemble in a flawed yet solid character study.
Instead of taking place in Santiago, this remake is set in Los Angeles. Moore plays the title character, a free-spirited woman in her fifties who has been divorced for over ten years by her ex-husband Dustin (Brad Garrett). She spends days working in her office at an insurance agency, trying to call her two grown children–Anne (Caren Pistorius) and Peter (Michael Cera)– to no avail.
At night, she hits the dance floor to the numerous nightclubs the city has to offer. She usually dances alone, but she tries to make-up with people her age; if not, older. One night, her life changes when she meets Arnold (John Turturro), who is also divorced with two grown children of his own. After falling madly in love, things begin to get complicated.
Lelio understands the American vibe this version portrays. Every scene feels realistic, especially the era Gloria is living in. With advanced technology taking over, she prefers to live life the old-fashioned way. Moore gives a spectacular performance as a woman who is searching for happiness. Whether it’s trying to find out how a hairless cat always gets into her one-bedroom apartment and can’t standing to overhear her noisy neighbor off-screen (The All-American Rejects lead singer Tyson Ritter, in an effective performance while off-screen), the audience sympathizes with her in every scene she is in. “When the world blows up, I hope I go down dancing,” she says while eating dinner with Arnold and her friends.
Mark her words. While she has moved on, Turturro’s Arnold is trying to get over his changes in life. However, his children are always worried about him. They call him almost every chance they get. That’s why things are starting to become difficult for the two of them. Even when he steps aside to call his kids, he is never seen again. It makes Gloria the least bit worried. Not only that, she sees her two children move on while she is still trying to find her place in life. Lelio is at his most riveting when he has the camera following her every step of the way, even if she doesn’t utter a single line.
The movie, however, is not perfect. There are times where Gloria Bell feels somewhat dull and sluggish at times. There are a few scenes that feel out-of-place, which derails the flow of the pace. Whenever we see Gloria dance to the kick-ass disco soundtrack, it’s hard to resist. It’s nothing I’ll ever see again, but I’m glad a movie like this exists. Now, time to watch the original.