As the title character in “Gloria Bell,” Julianne Moore gives a very solid performance and looks terrific. She plays an empty-nest divorcee in her fifties who’s looking for some companionship. She goes by herself to bars, waiting for a guy to ask her to dance. But this isn’t “Looking For Mr. Goodbar.”
John Turturro — who is physically incapable of giving a bad performance — plays Arnold, a man Gloria meets one night, dances with, then goes to bed with (after he takes off his girdle). They start a relationship, even though we’ve seen no evidence that either of these people is interesting in any way.
The problem is the script is horribly underwritten, wasting a good supporting cast (Brad Garrett, Rita Wilson, Sean Astin, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Michael Cera, Holland Taylor). I can imagine any of those actors asking director Sebastian Lelio, “What is this scene about?” and he would answer, “Nothing, just like all the other scenes.” Not only does the plot go nowhere, it gets there very slowly.
Lelio already made this movie once before, in Spanish. I have a feeling Moore saw that and thought of it as a vanity project for herself, which explains her executive producer credit — and her willingness to appear topless in several scenes (perhaps even more than she did in “Boogie Nights”). That’s fairly brave for a 58-year-old woman, but Moore pulls it off.
I know that I am not the right demographic for this movie, but I expected more because I like Moore so much (she tore me apart with her performance in “Still Alice” and is very good in this, too). Some people will be similarly attracted to “Gloria Bell” to see her, but I think they will walk out disappointed, as I did.
Ironically, earlier in the day, before the screening of this movie, I had lunch with a friend, a very successful woman in her mid-50s who is divorced, not unlike Moore’s character. The difference is that my friend had a lot more interesting stories to share with me in an hour and a half than the director and writer of “Gloria Bell” did in the same timespan.
One note about the soundtrack, which is full of dance/pop tunes from the 1980s. Halfway through, knowing a bit about the music of that era, I was willing to bet any amount of money I’d hear Laura Branigan singing “Gloria” as Moore danced by herself in the final scene. I would have won.
I’m giving “Gloria Bell” a 4 out of 10, purely because I like Moore and Turturro so much.