It's a rare phenomenon for a director to remake their own film, but this year, there are already two instances of filmmakers retrofitting their foreign-language darlings for American audiences. Hans Petter Moland turned his Scandinavian thriller "In Order of Disappearance" into the Liam Neeson revenge flick "Cold Pursuit."
And now, Chilean director Sebastian Lelio remakes his amusing 2013 portrait of feminine middle-age, "Gloria," into a vehicle for Julianne Moore, "Gloria Bell." The title isn't the only thing familiar about the film, which is essentially a shot-for-shot remake of the original, a carbon copy down to the line readings, tone and story beats.
Both "Gloria" and "Gloria Bell" are slice-of-life depictions that seem simple on the surface but are remarkable for their singular focus on the experiences of a woman in her late 50s, a character type who is all too often forgotten or cast aside. But there's something else about the character of Gloria that makes her different. She lives her life unabashedly, with gusto, her heart open, her dancing shoes on. It's a frankly radical notion, not just for women, but for anyone.
Gloria's divorced, the mother of two grown children (Michael Cera and Caren Pistorius), a grandmother, an insurance adjuster. But what makes her so interesting and appealing is that her zest for life won't be dampened by circumstance. She's unafraid to hit disco bars alone, attends therapeutic cuddle puddle giggling sessions and shouts the praises of a friend from the top of a parking structure. She leads with her heart, which makes her seem so alive, so in the moment. But when she encounters an interesting new man on the dance floor, Arnold (John Turturro), a layer of her charming bravado is peeled back _ perhaps she would like to love again.
In remakes of this nature, one has to search for the moments of dissonance, the elements that make it uniquely Chilean, or uniquely American (Los Angeles, to be exact). The small talk here centers on climate change, 401Ks and having "work done," both signifying the place and time, as well as the existential issues with which the film grapples so subtly.
Moore is softer and more vulnerable than the brassy and bold Paulina Garcia, who won Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival for her performance in this role. But Moore is more relatable, a bit goofy, sometimes unsteady. Her sweet chemistry with Turturro as the fumbling Arnold is genuinely affectionate and sexy in a film that acknowledges the realism of sex and romance beyond your 20s.
One does wonder about the purpose of the remake, when it hews so closely to the original, telling the same story. It almost seems Moore discovered the film and character and decided she had to play Gloria, the way stage actors take on classic roles. Moore's take brings a new dimension not only to the story, but to her career.