Gloria Bell: Sebastian Lelio’s Remake of his 2013 Chilean Drama, Starring Julianne Moore

Starring and executive produced by Julianne Moore, Gloria Bell has launched impressively with a $154,775 on five screens in New York and Los Angeles for a per screen average of $30,955.

A24 will expand Gloria Bell next weekend and go nationwide on March 22.

Directed by Chilean helmer Sebastian Lelio, Gloria Bell is a remake of the director’s 2013 woman drama “Gloria,” for which Paulina García won the Berlin Film Festival’s best actress prize.

Gloria Bell centers on a divorcee with a routine job (insurance company), who meets another divorced man, Arnold (a superb John Turturro), and starts a tentative relationship with him, without having too high expectations or placing too many demands on him to commit.

Recently divorced, and post surgery, Arnold still suffers the aftermath effects of serving in the military (he’s a former Marine).  But he is just as needy as Gloria, and just as sincere in dealing with her ex-wife and adult children.

We seldom see such ordinary and figures in Hollywood movies, not even in indies, and it’s even rarer to see individuals of the characters’ age making love.  It takes a sensitive foreign director like Lelio to depict sex in a creditable, realistic way through fragmented scenes, without the usual clichés in American movies.

In both Chilean and American versions, the woman lives alone–but she doesn’t or refuses to feel lonely– and supports herself.  Nor does she depend on the assistance or company of her adult children, letting them live their own lives.  When she becomes a grandmother, it’s not the epiphany of her life, just another event, albeit joyous, that enriches her life.

The Gloria of the 2013 tale was superbly played by Paulina Garcia, who deservedly won the acting kudo at the Berlin Film Fest.  And the first image that comes to my mind is how she burst into dancing, almost in defiance of gender-related societal norms of how women her age should behave, in private or in public.

The director considers his new film to be “a cover version” rather than a strict remake. And, indeed, in his Americanization of the character, and serving the specific qualities of his leading lady, he has imbued his story with a lighter, cooler tone; just watch the relish with which Moore smokes weed, or sings and dances to some popular tunes.

If I prefer the Chilean movie, it’s due to the fact that it was grounded in its broader political context, the Pinochet dictatorship.  In contrast, the American Gloria is devoid of specific politics or history; instead of news, Gloria listens to music on her radio.  The tale could have taken place in any decade, and if it were made in the 1970s, it could have been played by Gena Rowlands, perhaps under the direction of her filmmaker-husband, John Cassavetes.

One of the best actresses of her generation, Moore, now in her late 50s, has found a suitable role to exhibit her wide range of skills, inhabiting the role with subtle and multi-nuanced performance, and refusing to feel pity (or seek sympathy from the audience) for her social status.

As it stands, Gloria Bell is a valentine to single women of a certain age (and look) refusing to believe that vibrant life, in every sense of the term, including sex, ceases to exist past the age of 40.

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