There are two types of moviegoers: Those who believe Julianne Moore is wonderful in any role, and those who are wrong.
Moore’s gifts for burrowing into a character and making that character radiate from within are in full force in Chilean director Sebastián Leilo’s “Gloria Bell,” where Moore shines in spite of a meandering story.
In this remake of Leilo’s 2013 Chilean drama “Gloria,” Moore plays the title character, a 50ish divorceé living alone in the Los Angeles area. She drives to her job at an insurance company, singing along to songs from the ‘70s and ’80s songs. (Leilo needle-drops an array of hits about loneliness, hinting at the story arc that’s to come.) In her off hours, Gloria goes dancing at clubs, often dancing with gray-haired men in similar post-marital states.
We learn quickly that Gloria has two adult children. Peter (Michael Cera) is caring for a new baby while his wife is off “finding herself.” Anne (Caren Pistorius) is a yoga instructor who has fallen in love with Theo (Jesse Erwin), a hunky Swede, and is soon moving to Sweden to be with him.
One night at the club, Gloria meets Arnold (John Turturro), a divorced guy who owns a paintball range. Gloria and Arnold hit it off, and a romance begins to blossom. But Arnold is often distracted, usually by calls from his adult daughters and his still-clinging ex-wife.
The story unfolds in fits and starts, and it becomes clear that Leilo is less interested in plot mechanics than in the small explosions when Moore’s Gloria is put in the same room with other interesting people. Sometimes it’s lunch with Gloria’s mom (the always-sharp Holland Taylor), or a dinner with married friends (Rita Wilson and Chris Mulkey), or a birthday party for Peter that puts Gloria in proximity to her ex-husband Dustin (Brad Garrett) and his new wife, Veronica (Jeanne Tripplehorn).
Leilo has two collaborators to translate his Chilean movie for American audiences. One is filmmaker Alice Johnson Boher, who helps bring the feminist feelings to the center. The other is, of course, Moore, who gives a performance that is raw and sensual and authentic, capturing Gloria’s desperate loneliness and her happy abandon as she figures out how to live her best life.
Opened March 8 in select cities; opens Friday, March 22, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas (Salt Lake City). Rated R for sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use. Running time: 102 minutes.