By Jack Dignan
Remakes are everywhere. From infamous box office disasters to surprise hits that build upon the original to those rare few that you don’t even realise are remakes (seriously, Google them, there’s far more than you’d think), Hollywood’s trend of remaking old properties dates back decades. In all honesty, as much as I love original content, remakes as a whole get a bad rap. Some of my favourite films (The Thing, The Departed, Star Wars: The Force Awakens- uh, I mean The Fly) are remakes, but to remake your own foreign-language film for an American audience just five years after the original? That’s a risky remake. And yet when Gloria Bell came to a close, we didn’t stop applauding until the credits had finished.
Sometimes simple is best, and that’s never been more true than when it comes to the plot of Gloria Bell. Julianne Moore takes on the titular role in this comedy about living your life the way you want. Gloria’s a divorced grandmother in her late fifties who spends her nights dancing away at clubs hoping to once again find love. She’s lonely and coming to terms with the fact that she’s entered the later years in her life, but it’s never too late to start again. Enter John Turturro’s Arnold. He’s facing similar life problems, struggling to deal with his overbearing children while he settles a divorce, and hopes to find love to distract him from the now.
It’s an authentic and empowering slice of life story that’s going to resonate deeply with plenty of women. Chilean director Sebastián Lelio has made just two films between working on the original Gloria and then coming back to remake it as Gloria Bell. Little time has passed, but it’s a story that clearly resonates with him deeply, and this new interpretation manages to become its own thing. It’s funny, moving and fuelled by the sorrows of time. Gloria’s free loving spirit and desire to dance carries over to the big screen as her lustrous quest for happiness and longing evolves into a movie you’re going to fall deeply in love with.
Moore embraces the woes and worries of life, but deepens it and rebirths it through a childlike wander that allows for instant connection with her character. You can tell that this role means something to her. She gives it her absolute all, yet it’s a performance not alike anything we’ve already seen from her. Her relationship with Turturro’s character follows very formulaic, predictable beats, where Arnold’s rocky past and prior mistakes resurface in the most obvious of ways, but it’s innocent and enjoyable enough, and it all leads towards a finale that’ll have you roaring and raving as it cuts to black.
You’ve seen a lot of this before, and you’ll no doubt see it all again, but it’s Lelio’s easygoing direction and Moore’s laidback performance that makes this film akin to drinking your favourite beverage on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It’s nothing new, but it’s exactly what you need, and boy, it sure does look stunning. Cinematographer Natasha Braier captures life in its purest form. After recent credits on this, The Rover and The Neon Demon, she’s an artist we need to start paying more attention to. Gloria Bell is a super conventional movie, but it explores some really interesting themes in the most entertaining and crowd pleasing of ways. I’m still trying to understand the point of the Sean Austin cameo, but hey, it was worth it to hear the excited gasps from the mega-fans behind me.
3 1/2 Stars
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