For ‘Gloria Bell,’ Coming-of-Age is a Constant

For ‘Gloria Bell,’ Coming-of-Age is a Constant

April 12, 2019

We never quite finish growing up, so it makes sense that the coming-of-age honchos at A24 would eventually finance a movie like “Gloria Bell.” After all, this is the same studio that brought us “Moonlight,”“Lady Bird,” “Mid90s,” “The Florida Project” and “Eighth Grade.”  Why not apply their signature lens to a middle-aged woman?

“When the world blows up, I hope I go down dancing!” proclaims Julianne Moore’s Gloria Bell, a divorcee whose kids have grown up and moved on to (unsuccessful) relationships of their own. She lives alone, works for an insurance company and is still trying to figure out what this chapter of her life is going to look like. Positive exterior aside, there’s something missing.

Written and directed by Chilean auteur Sebastián Lelio, “Gloria Bell” is the American remake of Lelio’s own “Gloria” (2013). Lelio, along with cinematographer Natasha Braier, give the picture a nice sense of atmosphere: during Gloria’s nights on the town, the frames are drowned in perfect purple light, and the whole thing is suddenly reminiscent of “Black Mirror” standout “San Junipero.” Unfortunately, the dialogue isn’t quite as naturalistic as I think Lelio intended–some of the interactions we see come across as stilted, when they’re supposed to feel completely normal.

Though she may not realize it, Gloria’s life is not stagnant, as she meets Arnold (John Turturro), a seemingly-perfect foil. Turturro turns in a solid performance, but Moore carries this thing. Even as the story meanders and gets somewhat lost, she’s such a talented performer that just watching her go about her life is entertaining – and for most of the runtime, that’s all Lelio is interested in showing. He understands that Gloria’s problems aren’t going to be resolved by the appearance of a bachelor with salt-and-pepper hair. Despite its interludes to the contrary, this isn’t a rom-com; no, “Gloria Bell” is simply a poorly-paced coming-of-age story, one I’d nonetheless recommend.

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