★★★★★ - STUFF
I'm pretty sure I haven't seen Sebastian Lelio's 2013 film Gloria.
I see a lot of films, but I think I would have remembered that one, if this English-language reimagining is anything to judge by.
Gloria Bell is a single woman living in Los Angeles. She has been divorced for more than a decade, but with her two children having left home, now she feels free to date and occasionally turn up at a local singles' club.
Gloria works as an attorney, lives alone in her apartment, has a pretty good, if occasionally troubling, relationship with her kids and ex and absolutely loves her independence. But when she meets Arnold one night, she decides that he might be worth starting something with.
Gloria Bell unfolds over the next few months, as the nascent love-affair plays out. If I say much more, I'll only spoil a few of this terrific film's surprises and joys.
Julianne Moore inhabits Gloria completely and gloriously. In a career littered with stand out work, Moore here is at her absolute best playing a complex, perfectly written and utterly believable woman. Gloria Bell is wise without ever needing to show it off, funny without ever resorting to cracking jokes and precisely located within the processes of loving, aging and being a part of a family.
I don't remember being so convinced and impressed by any drama since Lelio's own A Fantastic Woman last year. Lelio picked up an Academy Award for best foreign film for that triumph. It's more than possible that, with Gloria Bell, he's given Moore the role that will win her a second Oscar. With maybe a supporting nod for John Turturro's equally nuanced and credible Arnold. Turturro's ability to bring prickly and often unsympathetic characters to warm-blooded life is perfectly deployed here.
Everything about this film just works. Everything feels real, earthy and authentic. Gloria's kids – nicely calibrated turns from Michael Cera (Juno) and Caren Pistorius (Mortal Engines) – are both fully formed people with their own crises and uncertainties, not just the plot devices that romances and comedies so often reduce support players to.
A family dinner party – and Arnold's first introduction to Gloria's family and ex – descends quietly and completely believably into the event that will define their relationship.
The ending, when it comes, is an exuberant blast of understated triumph. It's been a while since I heard an audience actually cheer at the sheer rightness of a film's closing scenes, but they did for Gloria Bell.
Don't go expecting a rom-com, or any of the patronising cliches associated with the genre. Just go for a hugely entertaining slice-of-life, delivered by the best in the business.
-GRAEME TUCKETT, STUFF