When you need someone to lend credibility to an American remake of an acclaimed foreign drama, you could do worse than Julianne Moore. Sebastian Lelio’s redo of his 2013 hit Gloria, now-titled Gloria Bell, is Moore’s second such film behind the Sundance-debuting After the Wedding. Just as her presence there helped center and elevate the material in fresh ways, so too does she give a spirited performance here that makes this version of the familiar story stand on its own.
Practically a shot-for-shot remake, Lelio’s film has only one thing going for it to justify its existence, and that, of course, is Julianne Moore. She plays the title character, a middle-aged divorcee who lives alone (except for one sneaky cat) but isn’t content with being lonely. She gets along well with her ex-husband (Brad Garrett), and endures that her adult-aged children don’t have any need for her anymore. Rather than sitting around the apartment fretting over things she can’t control, Gloria prefers to dance the night away at disco clubs where she has no trouble meeting men. It’s clear she’s looking for something, and one night she finds it in Arnold (John Turturro), a recently-divorced man who is funny and awkward but still confident enough to take the dancefloor.
Gloria is about a woman on the road to happiness, but what is particularly enjoyable about the first half of it is that she already seems well on her way. An adventurous soul, she’s always looking for something new to experience, and Moore has us wanting to go on this journey with her. Even as we, and Gloria, learn more about Arnold and his inability to refuse his lazy, dependent children and needy ex-wife, it’s all like a minor speed bump that Gloria will overcome on her way to the life she wants.
Maybe Turturro is a little too good at playing Arnold. Turturro is capable of adding layers to loud, mawkish characters and adding depth to pitiful sadsacks, which Arnold definitely falls in the latter category. But Arnold is such a lost cause that Gloria gets dragged down with him, and soon we begin to question why such a lively and beautiful woman keeps giving him a chance, only to get burned in increasingly humiliating ways.
The beauty of Gloria is the woman at the center of it and her infectious lust for life. While the film tackles issues familiar to the midlife coming-of-age genre, such as independence and starting over, it’s the way Gloria heads into the future with her eyes wide open, ready to take on the challenges that await. Gloria is in every way on par with its predecessor, which to some may make it redundant, but one can never complain about too much Julianne Moore in a role she’s perfect for.