Sebastián Lelio’s films have often portrayed strong women as their lead-characters in tremendous fashion such as in A Fantastic Woman, but especially in Disobedience. Therefore, his astoundingly subpar portrayal of a middle-aged divorcee becomes all the more shocking and disappointing. Gloria Bell promises so much to eventually deliver very little.
The film follows Gloria (Julianne Moore) who is a middle-aged divorcee as well as a mother of two who are fully grown and starting their own families. The study of the family dynamics and seeing her cope with her children and her having to accept the realisation that her children are grown up and finding her place in this new role are really interesting. However, my interest began and more or less ended there.
Seeing as the Chilean director unsurprisingly uses the 1982 Laura Branigan hit song “Gloria” at the end of the movie, I will use selected lyrics of such song to review his 2019 remake:
“Will you meet him on the main line, or will you catch him on the rebound?”
In her attempt to begin her life again as a woman rather than simply as a mother, Gloria attends night clubs across Los Angeles full of single people her age. One night she crosses eyes with a man named Arnold (John Turturro), a divorcee himself. However, it becomes apparent that he has not cut ties with his past life. Then follows a series of weak decisions by Gloria throughout their “relationship” decreasing the possibility to see Gloria as a strong female lead.
“Leave them hangin’ on the line, oh-oh-oh, calling Gloria”
The film ends up resulting in a series of sequences of characters refuses to pick up their phones. While this does end up being slightly tedious by the end of the movie, it is a clever way to portray the characters’ inability to let go of the things, or people, who are holding them back and causes them more harm than good.
“I think you’re headed for a breakdown, so be careful not to show it”
Every character in this film seem to be slowly heading towards a major breakdown. Whether it be her son Peter (Michael Cera) who is left to take care of his son on his own, or Gloria herself as she struggles to compromise with Arnold whilst juggling her job and dealing with her daughter’s arising issues. However, Lelio provides no such satisfaction to the audience other than a brief case for Gloria when she gives up on Arnold and shoots him with his paintball gun.
“A-ha-ha, a-ha-ha, Gloria, how’s it gonna go down?”
To end on a positive note the cinematography in Gloria Bell is some of the best of 2019 without a doubt. At times I felt as though I was watching one of Nicolas Winding Refn’s movies due to the abundant use of bright-neon colours, whether it be in the backdrop of the night clubs or the nightlife of Las Vegas. Therefore, it came as no surprise to me when I found out that the cinematographer for Gloria Bell is the same person as for The Neon Demon, Natasha Braier. At least the visuals provide some pleasure to this rather depressing storyline.