Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Lelio, whose 2017 film “A Fantastic Woman” won the foreign-language-film Oscar last year, made a low-key little movie five years ago called “Gloria.” In it, not much happened — a middle-age divorcée (Pauline Garcia) quietly lived her life, making a few bad decisions along the way, always finding time for dancing. But if you saw it, you fell a little bit in love with the character, with the way she threw open her arms to life, to love, to music’s beat.
Fast-forward to 2019, and here we are with “Gloria Bell,” Lelio’s English-language remake of his own film, starring Julianne Moore. If you’ve seen the original, watching the new one is an odd experience; it’s a very, very faithful remake, right down to Gloria’s unflatteringly oversized glasses. Gloria’s life is the ordinary, middling sort that we don’t see on screen too often: She works for an insurance company; lives in an apartment that’s neither lavish nor meager; and juggles her relationships with her grown children (Michael Cera, Caren Pistorius), her mother (Holland Taylor) and the sometimes-sweet, sometimes-borderline-creepy man (John Turturro, dialing up the cringe factor) she meets while out dancing.
You can see Gloria’s bad decisions coming from across the street, but it doesn’t matter: The pleasure of “Gloria Bell,” whether or not you’ve seen “Gloria,” is watching Moore wrap herself in the role like a soft shawl. Her expectant smile on the dance floor; her glow of pride as her son plays a forgettable tune; her exuberant singing along to ’80s hits while driving — all of it speaks of a woman who, against all odds, remains optimistic. Moore lets us see, through her quietly shining performance, that Gloria believes in love, in the way an old song can make you feel a little younger, and in the power of dressing up and hitting a dance floor by yourself, moving as if in a trance, letting the music take you to a better place.
★★★½ “Gloria Bell,” with Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, Caren Pistorius, Brad Garrett, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Rita Wilson, Holland Taylor. Directed by Sebastian Lelio, from a screenplay by Alice Johnson Boher and Lelio, based on the 2013 Spanish-language film “Gloria,” written by Lelio and Gonzalo Maza. 102 minutes. Rated R for sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use. Opens March 22 at multiple theaters.