Thursday, April 11, 2019

Julianne Moore Shines In The Delightfully Low-Key Gloria Bell

Though she has an upbeat attitude, Gloria Bell (Julianne Moore), the titular lead character of Gloria Bell, is not a person whose life is devoid of turmoil. Both her life and the movie she stars in have darkness hiding in the margins, whether it's the deeply troubled upstairs neighbor that keeps Gloria up at night, her struggles to keep herself fully immersed in the lives of her now grown-up kids or all kinds of angst at her job. But Gloria still keeps on facing each new day with a touch of optimism and a car radio blaring upbeat disco-era tunes and both of those attributes help her out immensely. After all, there are plenty of things to be cheerful about, like a new man, Arnold (John Turturro), Gloria has started seeing.

Like Sebastian Leilo's last two directorial efforts, A Fantastic Woman and Disobedience, Gloria Bell (a remake of Leilo's own 2013 Chile feature Gloria) is an intimate dialogue-driven tale told without much in the way of bombast. It's an approach that's served Leilo well in the past and with Gloria Bell, he uses that style to once again deliver something touching and entertaining. Part of why Leilo thrives in this kind of storytelling is that he's always so clearly admiring of his lead characters and every part of their complex lives, he's as passionate about shedding light on the perspective of characters like Gloria Bell as a child is for finding out where the distant chime of a nearby ice cream truck is coming from.

Such passion is of infectious variety and eventually, the audience is as enamored with these characters as Leilo is, which makes quiet scenes like Gloria just walking around a bar or Gloria listening to Arnold read her poetry totally engaging. Though Gloria Bell isn't a life-changing movie, the discernable dedication Leilo has for this lead character makes it one you can easily enjoy for 100 minutes or so. The fact that the sterling performances and memorable cinematography that have marked prior Leilo directorial efforts are still around in Gloria Bell also help the movie turn small-scale mundane events of life into entertaining cinema.

Best of the performances in this particular Leilo outing is easily Julianne Moore as Gloria Bell, an actor whose gift for intimate performances that evoke humanity out of characters who could easily become broad caricatures is put to fine use here. There's a persistent upbeat quality in Moore's consistently compelling performance as Gloria Bell but that's not the only note Moore is asked to portray here. She's given plenty of chances to naturally bring in plenty of other well-realized complex emotions in her performance, particularly in her heartbreaking depiction of a morose Gloria during an important airport visit. Such moments of variety in her character's disposition allow Moore the chance to ensure that the character of Gloria Bell can truly shine as a fleshed out human being.

Playing off against Moore for much of the film is John Turturro, who provides a fun supporting performance that sees the actor sharing some realistic yet endearing chemistry with Moore while the script takes the character of Arnold into some constantly unexpected places that Turturro runs with as a performer. The likes of Rita Wilson, Caren Pistorius and Michael Cera deliver solid work in supporting roles that leave an impression even without a major amount of screentime while Natasha Braier's cinematography is almost as dazzling as Julianne Moore's lead performance. The cinematography particularly impresses in any of the scenes set in either Las Vegas or a bar where Gloria and Arnold first meet as these locales offer up plenty of pieces of brightly colored lighting that are just gorgeous to look at.

These purple-hued scenes are the most notable example of Gloria Bell's memorable visual scheme but there are plenty of creatively filmed and composed shots throughout the film. I especially love the position of the camera during a moment in a get-together with Gloria and her family that puts Arnold off in the background to reflect how isolated he feels from everyone at the party. This exemplary cinematography is used to capture, among other elements of the feature, the numerous dialogue exchanges penned by Alice Johnson Boher and Sebastian Leilo. Their dialogue does a great job of being both entertaining and helping to constantly but subtly reflect the endearing individual personalities of the various characters. This is particularly true of the lead character of Gloria Bell, whose lines are especially impressive in how, even in the slightest sentence, her basic personality as a person is captured. Such a personality is so thoroughly interesting that it's no wonder that both her dialogue and her own movie end up being so richly charming.

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