Gloria Bell

Jacob Richardson | 24/04/2019

The window we are given into the life of Gloria Bell is at once beautifully rendered, ambling in pace, and unrepentantly optimistic; much like the character herself.


Gloria (Julianne Moore) is a free-spirited divorcée. By day she is a caring insurance customer service rep, but by night she transforms into a whirlwind dancer, exuberantly letting loose on the dancefloors of LA clubs. It is on one of these dancing extravaganzas that she meets Arnold (John Turturro), and finds herself unexpectedly flung into a new romance. Gloria couples the joys of budding love with the complications of her own identity, questions about her role in her fractured family unit, and the usual (or not so usual) issues with dating.


Gloria Bell is an interesting film from director Sebastien Leilo, primarily because not much happens. Leilo eschews the typical narrative structure, loosely hanging his plot on the bones of Gloria’s relationship with Arnold but certainly ranging far and wide from that skeleton. In this way, the movie feels much apiece with such mumblecore fare as Frances Ha; we get the feeling that we are being given the opportunity to look in through a brief window into this person’s life, and that whether or not anything ~happens~ is entirely incidental.


Visually, too, the film is largely unremarkable. There is no fanciful camera work or egregious editing tricks. That should not be confused with no visual capability, however, because the craft on display here is top notch, particularly with respect to the lighting. Just that the editing, the cinematography and the other visual elements don’t push to the front.


That leaves room for Julianne Moore to fill that gap at the forefront of the film, dominating every scene in the movie. She is an absolute powerhouse. This performance not only feels brave, but also incredibly assured, confident and powerful.


Gloria herself is not infallible, and indeed Moore and Leilo showcase a character that is at times antithetical to our typical desires in a protagonist. She comes across as somewhat overly optmistic, in the face of realism. She breaks her daughter’s confidence and tells her secret to her ex-husband without a hint of remorse.


Then again, she also sings a steady stream of absolute bangers in the car on the way to work, is tremendously supportive of her disenchanted colleague and takes joy in the little things.


Moore manages to ground all of these conflicting feelings towards the character in a deep fascination to see how her story unfolds. For a movie with barely any plot, that is tremendously impressive, and a testament not just to Moore’s incredible skill as a performer, but also to the assured hand of Leilo.


A slow but intensely intriguing film, anchored by a stunning performance by Julianne Moore. Worth a watch.