It’s not the first time a director has returned to a film and re-made it in a different language. After Cold Pursuit setting the precedence for this year, the thought of another similar adaptation didn’t exactly get pulses racing. But Gloria Bell is a very different, and vastly superior, proposition, the English language version of Sebastian Lelio’s award winning Gloria (2013).
The setting has moved from Santiago in Chile to New York, with Julianne Moore taking the title role of the middle aged woman trying to work out her place in the world. Her life has changed radically in recent years. First came divorce, now her children are grown up with lives of her own and she’s feeling shut out, redundant even. And, much as she enjoys her office job, it isn’t fulfilling enough so evenings mean various classes and trips to a night club. It’s there that she finds romance in the shape of Arnold (John Turturro), but it’s not necessarily the answer to all her questions.
This is Lelio’s second film in English in quick succession – Disobedience, his first, was released at the end of last year. Not that you can tell it’s a second language for him, because the dialogue is nicely crafted and fluent, with Turturro and Moore in particular making full use of it to bring their characters to life on the screen. Lelio also has an affinity with female-led stories. A Fantastic Woman and Disobedience both fall into that category, as do both incarnations of Gloria. But what makes her story stand out is that she’s older than many female central characters. She’s in her 50s, still attractive, vivacious and aiming to live life with all the energy it demands – but in her 50s nonetheless. It means she’s somebody who now has to put drops in her eyes to stem the tide of their deterioration because of her age. And it all makes for a refreshing change.
The film is a wonderful showcase for the talents of Julianne Moore, one of the most consistent actresses around and for some years. Her Gloria is vivacious, intelligent, caring but definitely not prepared to accept second best when it comes to a relationship. She’s not afraid to let her hair down, or break her own rules either, which actually makes her all the more endearing. Stuck in a rut she is not and, with any luck, she never will be. Nor is she lacking in courage: she may not want to be alone but she knows full well that it’s better than being with the wrong person.
While it’s very much her film, there’s a strong supporting cast alongside her. Tuturro is great as the man weighed down with other responsibilities: his daughters are constantly on the other end of a phone and their appearance comes as something as a shock when they eventually put in an appearance. It makes you wonder what else this guy has been hiding all along. Rita Wilson, makes one of her all-too-infrequent on screen appearances as Gloria’s close friend, somebody who understands her instinctively. And we all need friends like that.
Gloria Bell is fresh and frank – and, before you ask, yes, Gloria the song puts in an appearance, just as in the first version. It feels a touch clichéd but somehow not completely out of place, especially as the soundtrack to Moore’s energetic, joyous, dancing. As a remake, it stands up on its own more than happily and most of that is down to Moore as well. She’s truly fabulous!