“Gloria Bell” is the picture of supportive, understanding patience and resilience.
It lets the 50ish divorcée (Julianne Moore) thrive at work, as an insurance claims mediator/adjuster. Maybe it explains how she’s still on good terms with her remarried ex (Brad Garrett). It’s why she holds her tongue when her daughter (Caren Pistorious) falls — hard — for a Swedish surfer.
Who knew there were such things?
Even the paranoid screaming jags of her upstairs neighbor — her landlady’s son, it turns out — earn as much pity as complaint when she calls her.
And it stands Gloria in good stead when she’s out at her favorite 50something bar, traveling solo, meeting men — dancing and even bedding one on occasion.
One of those meet-up/hook-ups kind of flips for her, and we can understand why. She’s outgoing, beautiful, accomodating and yes — understanding. So even if Arnold (John Turturro) is still letting his now-ex wife and clinging, over-dependent adult daughters interrupt their every tender moment with cell phone cries for attention, Gloria practices forbearance. It must be how she was raised.
“Gloria Bell” is a remake of a 2013 Chilean film that practically shouted “Cast Julianne Moore and GET THIS WOMAN HER OSCAR when you remake it in English!” It’s a tailor-made tour-de-force for Moore’s unmatched ability to play empathy, vulnerability and inner resolve beneath a surface that suggests “put-upon pushover.”
She’s played a wide range of characters, but think back to her turns in “Far from Heaven,” “The Hours” or “The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio.” Few have captured that bright light consigned to a life in the shadows by circumstance, bad marriages or historical second class citizenship better than her.
Of course, she won an Oscar in the years since that first “Gloria” came out. But it’s worth bringing up the “O” word here because we were just subjected to an awards season of Best Actress contenders — including the winner — whom Moore would have easily overwhelmed with this nuanced, open-hearted, naked (sometimes literally) performance of rising self-awareness and slow-to-assert-itself self-esteem.
This is a crowning moment in a great actress’s run of crowning achievements.
The supporting cast is proficient and professional in roles that rarely have the showy moments Moore’s Gloria is given. Turturro’s Arnold seems a tad out of her league, and that’s how he plays Arnold — overwhelmed, smitten, but too weak to break decades of bad habits. Garrett gets a fun drunk scene, and Jeanne Tripplehorn and Rita Wilson make the most of concerned, loving but faintly patronizing friends.
If you remember the Chilean film also written and directed Sebastián Lelio, also an acting tour de force, you know the Laura Brannigan song from Gloria’s swinging, clubbing youth is the key to understand Gloria — its reference to the illusion of joy, the appearance of “fun” and the empty life lying behind the delusions.
Here, its arrival on Gloria Bell’s playlist is both poignant and a grand release, a brave acknowledgement of who she is and an acceptance of herself on her own terms. Moore makes this solo moment touching, bittersweet and triumphant.
That she manages variations of that in every scene of “Gloria Bell,” first to last, is all the more glorious.
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use
Cast: Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, Caren Pistorious, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Brad Garrett, Rita Wilson, Sean Astin, Chris Mulkey and Holland Taylor
Credits:Directed by Sebastián Lelio, script by Alice Johnson Boher, adapted from the screenplay to Lelio’s “Gloria.” An A24 release.
Running time: 1:42