Remakes give filmmakers a chance to adapt and reinterpret another work. They offer the opportunity to unveil new understandings and re-energise older material with modern stylistic flair. Most remakes see directors applying their creativity to someone else’s film yet, with Gloria Bell, Argentinian-Chilean director Sebastian Lelio (Best Foreign Film Academy Award winner for 2017’s A Fantastic Woman) masterfully presents an English-language reimagination of Gloria, his own film from 2013.
Julianne Moore in a career best performance as Gloria Bell
Like the Gloria of six years prior, 2019’s Gloria Bell is about the comedy in the anecdotes and calamities of life in a grown-up family. Titular character Gloria Bell (Academy Award winner Julianne Moore) is a single middle-aged woman living in suburban Los Angeles. She finds simple yet ecstatic joys in going to nightclubs and dancing to ‘70s and ’80s disco hits, works for an insurance agency, and struggles to maintain contact with her adult children Peter (Michael Cera) and Anne (Caren Pistorius). Things don’t always work out perfectly for her, yet Gloria seems to want to live life to the fullest and stay happy doing so.
The action of the film picks up when Gloria meets Arnold (the compelling John Turturro) – a fellow divorcee – and is thrown into a mid-life fantasy of long romantic dinners and dreaming of holidays spent dancing in Spain. Besides being constantly at the beck and call of his daughters, Arnold is Gloria’s breath of fresh air, and the film follows their burgeoning relationship.
This through-line remains the same between both iterations of the film, so why remake it?
To Lelio this was a simple question of style and context. Shortly after the film’s premiere last September at the Toronto International Film Festival, Lelio discussed how he approaches finding a reason for his remake:
“A chance to re-signify, adapt, and actualise in different contexts. Almost like a cover of a melody that existed, played again by a new band, in a new era, in a new context.”
Indeed the band is well-assembled; Lelio and Moore have cited their mutual admiration for each other’s work as the reason for bringing this project together.
The critically-lauded Spanish-language original rendered an identical narrative in less of a comedically-flirtatious light, granted, with actress Paulina Garcia still turning out an impressive performance. In 2019, however, Julianne Moore’s Gloria Bell is a tour-de-force of middle-aged emotional fragility and volatility in all of its invigorating victories and petulant downfalls. Lelio presents his ‘update’ as an accumulation of his other work in recent years – the previously mentioned A Fantastic Woman and last year’s emotionally-striking Disobedience:
“With each film you have the chance to sophisticate the things that you are doing…it has some elements of the stylistic searches that my films since the first Gloria had.”
Remakes of this nature ultimately work because of how they add further emotional dimensions to a story when it is placed in a different context. Like last year’s wildly successful remake of the perennial A Star is Born, realising a story in a modernised and familiar setting allows audiences to engage with the characters onscreen in an even deeper way. This is most certainly the case with Gloria Bell.
Like the iconic Laura Branigan 1982 disco hit of nearly the same title from which the main character claims her name, Gloria Bell is an enlivened cover – passionately and enthrallingly presented to a fresh audience and is sure to please.
by Patrick McKenzie
Patrick is a front of house staff member at Palace Norton Street, and is always keen to chat on the latest releases.
Gloria Bell commences at Palace Cinemas April 25.