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Review: Julianne Moore is radiant in 'Gloria Bell'

Posted Wednesday, May 29, 2019 at 3:20 PM Central

by John Couture

Sadly, the old Hollywood tenet is true. There just doesn't seem to be any good roles for middle-aged women. While this fact is tragic on its own, it's increasingly sad when we realize that all of the fantastic actresses that we grew up with find themselves in this acting limbo zone.

I'm not going to turn this review into a criticism of Hollywood patriarchy, because that has been done time and again recently. Instead, I will sing highly my praises of Gloria Bell and argue until I'm out of breath that it is precisely the film rebuttal to all of this patriarchy and should be the rule and not the exception in Hollywood going forward.

Julianne Moore stars as the titular character who is about a decade removed from a divorce and is still finding it difficult to move on with her life. Her only outlet of joy comes from local disco clubs in Los Angeles where, one night, she finds an unexpected new romance that will shake up her life.

This is precisely the type of films that big Hollywood studios should be making more often. Instead, indies are left to bear the load and don't get me wrong, A24 and Lionsgate are amazing at what they do, but imagine how much traction real change could get if the major studios spend time marketing these relationship films.

Let's be real, the reason that Gloria Bell is so superb falls directly on the shoulders of Julianne Moore who is brilliant in this role. As someone who is in every single scene, she accepts the challenge and delivers a performance that should have turned more heads during awards season.

The rare feat for this film though is that they are able to surround Julianne with a diverse cast of top-notch Hollywood talent and they all bring their A game. The fabulous John Turturro plays Gloria's love interest and Michael Cera plays her grown son. There are also phenomenal performances turned in by Hollywood heavyweights Brad Garrett, Rita Wilson and Jeanne Tripplehorn. In short, this is a brilliantly acted film that tackles the often neglected subject of a middle-aged woman in search of her place in the world.

Sure, there is any number of Hollywood films released each year that recount the hilarious adventures of men having their little mid-life crises, but hardly any spotlight is shown on the flip side. No, save for the odd outlier, women are mostly ignored when they hit a certain age and trust me, there are plenty of stories left to tell.

One of them is Gloria Bell, which is a remake of the 2013 Chilean film Gloria which was also directed by Sebastian Lelio. While the two films are as close to a scene-by-scene remake as you will get in today's world, that doesn't diminish Gloria Bell's impact. While the original film was brave and told an original story, Julianne Moore elevates the movie with her wonderful performance. Gloria Bell is the Julianne's calling card and every casting director in Hollywood should watch it before they cast a middle-aged woman in their film.

I found the reliance on Laura Branigan's song "Gloria" to be an interesting choice. Released during the waning moments of the disco era, the song has actually had a bit of a resurgence lately thanks to the winning ways of the NHL's St. Louis Blues. The team has adopted the song as their celebration tune and the country is catching a little bit of disco fever. Thus, the timing of the release with the ongoing play of the Stanley Cup finals makes for a rather interesting potential for drafting.

In the film, Gloria's embrace of disco and this song, in particular, is indicative of her character's inability to move on from the past. But, it's also a reminder of her life motto that if the world ends, she hopes to be dancing during it. This life affirmation is a reminder to all of us that life is too short and is never as easy as they make it out to be in the movies.

Of course, that's another reason that I adored Gloria Bell and one of the reasons that A24 picked it up is that the film doesn't really have a tidy storyline. Face it, life is messy and it's not always going to end with the storybook ending, but hey, at least it can end with dancing, right?

Gloria Bell is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.