Gloria Bell Review – Strong Performances Attempt to Save Weak Script, Direction

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Gloria Bell, from A24 and FilmNation Entertainment, brings to the screen a story of hope and misplaced trust in the modern age while trying to navigate the singles scene after a painful divorce and a ten-year hiatus.

Directed by Sebastian Lello, Gloria Bell stars Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Brad Garret, Caren Pistorius, Rita Wilson, Holland Taylor, and Sean Astin.

The film begins with Gloria, played by Julianne Moore, navigating a crowded club working her way to the bar as she begins to move with the beat of the 1980's hits. Dancing with another nameless stranger she sees a man watching her. They lock eyes for a moment, the song is over, and she heads back to the bar.


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The man, Arnold, played by John Turturro, moves in and the two begin to talk. We find that Gloria has been divorced for ten years and is making effort to step out. And as she loves to dance . . . He explains he has been divorced for one year, "finally divorced" he says.

Of course, the idea of hitting the dance clubs is to eventually meet someone, even if it is just for right now. She doesn't seem to expect long term commitment, and when Arnold calls a few days after what seemed like the full-scope of the relationship, dancing, obligatory conversation and good impression sex, she seems surprised.

After a decade of navigating the singles scene, she seems settled in life. Her two children, Peter and Anne, played by Michael Cena and Caren Pistorius, are adults and involved in relationships. Peter's girlfriend is in the desert finding herself after giving birth to their son leaving them both and Anne, a yoga instructor, is moving to Sweden to be with her guy, a big wave surfer.

Set in Los Angeles, the morning commute is featured prominently with Gloria singing a range of 1980's Top 40. She works in an insurance office, in the auto division helping motorists who have unfortunately been involved in accidents.


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Time isn't really defined in the film, no prop placements or other casual references to allow the viewer to determine how much time has passed between Gloria's first date and her son's birthday dinner. A family event attended by her ex-husband, Dustin, played by Brad Garrett and his wife, played by Jeanne Tripplehorn and comfortable enough with the progression that she invites her new man, Arnold to attend and meet her family.

Needless to say, the night ends badly, as with family gatherings the nostalgia of less complex times all captured by Kodak are now being pulled from photo album archives. Memory lane, in retrospect, had some nice moments or were simply fueled by delusional youthful impulses. Whatever the motivation, the wine, the night, the times, the past seemed to be tinged with humor and the pain forgotten, at least for this moment.

After the laughter, we find Arnold has simply left. Not excused himself for a moment of fresh air. He punctuated her good time and his introduction to her family with a WTF hashtag.


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Unfortunately, this isn't one of the best films I've seen. While the gratuitous nudity may work for others it is overt, over the top and attempts to anchor the audience in hopes they stay for the T&A show.

The storyline is cliché, a Looking For Mr. Goodbar modernized, and while she doesn't end up on the wrong side of a slasher literally, she ends up on the wrong side of an emotional slasher, falling for the oldest lies, and is left to pick up the shattered pieces. 


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The character development has them living retro lives, stuck in some 1980's definition of roles and falling into societal beliefs; clinging, sex starved female who needs only to hear "I love you" and she loses all intelligence and sense of reason, of course. The male role is also cliché, as he lying about being divorced, still lives at home, keeps a separate place to take his mistresses, where he can explore his attempts at seduction and reveal his deepest emotional secrets, profess love and see if it works which it does.

Gloria Bell is a sad indictment on modern single scene. On the flip side, the acting was strong, and the film definitely resonated.

Gloria Bell is playing at theaters everywhere. Check local listings.

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