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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Cinema Review: Gloria Bell

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There is a lot of hype surrounding Chilean writer/director Sebastián Lelio’s remake of the film of the same name that he shot in Spanish in 2013. As part of cinema’s trend towards movies which look at the status of women in contemporary society, it has been praised to the hilt, but I found it flat, almost turgid with its ponderous pace and, in the end, as frustrating as it was joyless – perhaps it needed a female director to find more positivity in Gloria Bell’s life, to not constantly see her as a victim, and to allow her to live up to her name. As the eponymous central character, Julianne Moore is faultless, but the person she portrays is rather too resigned to her fate, too passive to feel genuine sympathy for. Gloria is twelve years divorced from Dustin (Brad Garrett), works for an insurance company in LA, drinks too much, goes clubbing, regularly and lives the sort of life that does not countenance the idea of turning off the phone when dining in a restaurant. On the dancefloor one night, she meets Arnold (John Turturro), an evasive but affectionate fellow with whom she hits it off. As far as plot goes, there is not much more to it than that. Initially, Arnold is Mister Right, the next minute he has unaccountably disappeared, hiding from her his domestic circumstances. This is a sad and patronising portrayal of woman ‘who can’t live without a man’. There are instances that are implausible at best, while Gloria’s lack of self-confidence and her fatalism contribute heavily to the movie’s growing ennui. Lelio provides a through-line with probably too many go-to shots of Gloria driving her car and singing along with radio songs that indicate her state of mind, and then attempts her salvation with a nearly funny paint-ball scene at Arnold’s house before letting Gloria lose herself yet again in the nothingness of dancing with the mob. At least in the end she discovers that a cat can be a comforting friend.

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