After a stressful week, my guy and I decided on a movie date night. He, being the sensitive one, chose “Gloria Bell.” I would have been “Captain Marvel” all the way, except it was a Saturday opening weekend and crowds are my kryptonite. Honestly, I had not even heard of “Gloria Bell.” So I watched the trailer. YOU HAD ME AT SINGING ALONG TO OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN! I won’t tell you my age, but I’m the age that, as a lady, you’re going to like “Gloria Bell.”
And I did. Mostly. I’ll start with the love then I’ll nitpick. Julianne Moore is Gloria Bell. She’s a 50-something woman who’s been divorced over a decade and is feeling a little desperate to connect with someone. Her friends are married, her ex has someone, and her kids are even in relationships. Or they ignore her, or both. She tries a little to hard to connect with her kids. She goes dancing at some middle-aged dance club and tries a little to hard to connect with a guy. They’re mostly duds. But she meets John Turturro and they connect.
The love story is fun. There are fun date moments, some great kisses and actual fun. And they’re slapped up against some understated cringey moments. I dated as a 40-something lady and recognized them all. The laughing too hard at the thing he said that was kind of funny but not that funny. Being so happy to introduce him into your world, even though he’s kind of weird. It just feels nice to have someone. Trying to make moments sexy that aren’t all that sexy but it’s close enough. And sometimes they actually turn sexy? It’s not just complicated relationships that are complicated. They’re kind of all complicated.
The soundtrack is of songs that are actually playing in the scene, which I love. And Gloria is often singing her own theme music. It was the best.
And hats off to writer/director Sebastian Lilio because she’s not crazy. She’s not love sick or obsessed. When she had sex it was because she wanted to and she was fine with it. She didn’t wait by the phone or feel like he owed her something. She doesn’t need a relationship just because she’s a woman. She’s not desperate in the way women are often shown in movies, like she just had to have someone. She just wanted to be with someone. Like, how all human people get.
As wonderful as Julianne Moore is in the role…She’s engaging every moment of every scene. She’s 100% fantastic. But..I couldn’t help but wonder what the story would have felt like if the lead were not impossibly beautiful. I can’t even count this as a fair criticism because I understand how Hollywood works. And she produced it. It makes sense to make a great role for yourself. But…her impossible good looks affect the story.
“Gloria Bell” is an almost scene-by-scene remake of Lilio’s 2013 movie “Gloria.” And that role was played by Chilean actress Paulina Garcia. Okay, this is challenging to talk about actresses’ looks, because I don’t mean any offense. When I starred on a TV show in the 90’s my least-favorite compliment was, “Oh, you guys are like ‘Friends’ but regular looking.” I am not putting down anyone’s looks. But… Garcia has a beautiful look like, let’s say, American actress Mary McDonnell.
Moore changed her posture and dorked up her look a bit, but she can’t not look beautiful. That woman in those dresses would be hit on constantly. The guys might be jerks, and she might not feel any connection to them. She could still be treated badly by men, but she would have so much more attention than is depicted in this story.
And that always throws me in these movies.
I was in a film called “Where the Heart is” in 2000. In it, Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd play hillbillies, basically. Portman has a baby in a Wal-mart and these two friends struggle to get by. At one point Judd says something like, “Girls like us, we don’t get the pick of the litter.” There was an audible laugh in the theater, because, yeah, you do. And I was watching with the cast and crew who made the movie. I understand that there are class and status issues involved in that line. But also, they were talking about looks, too. And girls like them do get the pick of the litter.
After the movie, I said to my guy that in some ways that’s what felt like the difference between this being a Hollywood movie and a foreign film. If it were French, I hypothesized, the woman would be more regular looking. But in Hollywood, even the woman who has a hard time with dudes is impossibly beautiful. Like, Jen Aniston in ALL her indy roles. And when I looked it up later, turns out that was pretty accurate.
On her press junket, Moore revealed that she had been fired from “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” And I couldn’t help but wonder, what if unglammed McCarthy played this role? Does it feel too sad to an American audience if the woman having a hard time with the guy isn’t stunning? And here’s some controversy. Rita Wilson (who is beautiful but not impossible Julianne Moore beautiful) played Gloria’s best friend. I’d find it a much more captivating story if they’d switched roles.
Score: All the kitten hands. Definitely see it.
And a great date movie. Genuine hot moments. Great make-out pre-game.