“Gloria Bell”

 

            Gloria (Julianne Moore) is a fifty-something single woman who's still trying to figure out what to do after the people around her grow up.

            She has a son, Peter (Michael Cera), who's taking care of the baby while his wife is off somewhere “finding herself.”  Every time Gloria offers to help with the baby, like put him to bed, Peter insists it'll be easier if he does it.  He seems to be fairly miserable, as well as controlling, and standoffish, so Gloria doesn't have much opportunity to practice her materal instincts, much less develop any grandmotherly habits.

            Her grown daughter, Anne (Caren Pistorius), isn't much warmer.  She's a yoga instructor who's fallen in love with a Swedish surfer guy, who literally travels the world looking for the next big wave.  When she finds out she's pregnant, Swedish Surfer Dude sends a sweet e-mail inviting her to come to Sweden to live, so she does.  At the airport, Gloria weeps like she'll never see her again.  At the very least, we have no idea how long it might be.

            Gloria works as some kind of insurance adjustor, working sometimes in a small cubicle and sometimes from home.  The only close friend she had from work got laid off shortly after she started complaining about lack of retirement benefits.  What's fun in Gloria's life?  Dancing.  She loves pop music---sings along in the car to the oldies---and loves going to dance clubs at night.  She finds herself dancing with strange men, but it doesn't bother her inside the club, it's safe enough.  But weird things begin to happen when she meets Arnold (John Turturro), and agrees to see him outside the club.

            Though Arnold insists he's divorced, he seems to get these frequent phone calls from his needy ex-spouse, or one of his two equally needy grown daughters.  It's obvious he's still very connected with them.  And that makes him precipitously ambivalent about being with Gloria.  Gloria tries to work through his inconsistent attentiveness, even inviting him to her son's birthday party, where her ex-husband and his new wife also appear.  Everybody seems to get along OK, but the setting obviously bothers Arnold, who apparently can't deal with not being Gloria's sole focus.

            This movie is a re-make for Director Sebastian Lelio; it was Chile's official submission to the 2014 Oscars as best foreign film.  Though the national origin has changed, the primary themes have not.  We're still dealing with loneliness in the midst of crowds of strangers.  We're still holding up the tension between isolation and connectivity in personal relationships.  And we're still having to discover personal identity, even in middle age.  It's not LOL funny.  The romance is tinged with desperation and acquires a sour aftertaste.  But at the end, you still want to like Gloria, because she never gives up trying to expand her horizons.  It's just that freedom sometimes feels more like free falling.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association