Moore has lots of great scenes in “Gloria Bell,” many of them little more than a close-up of the Oscar winner’s face. But the most spectacular sequence comes at the end, at a wedding, when Laura Branigan’s anthemic disco hit, “Gloria,” comes on and the title character, who’s feeling a little down, reluctantly enters the dance floor.
Initially, she joins in the undulating and arm-waving but Moore’s face shows us that Gloria is not feeling it; she’s obligation-dancing to please her friends. There’s a brief interlude where Gloria stops moving and we can see that she’s processing recent disasters in her life, perhaps trying to figure out what went wrong. But then Gloria remembers who she is, remembers that she loves to dance, remembers that it is her song that is playing, remembers that it is an incredible song, and she gives herself over to the beat with an abandon that reads to us as pure, unfiltered joy.
Lelio is not a filmmaker whose work calls attention to itself, but, if you’re paying attention, his taste and precision are all over “Gloria Bell”: in the guitar riff that coincides with Gloria’s dance-floor entrance to “her song,” in the surreal blasts of color during Gloria’s trip to Las Vegas and in the brilliant decision to cast Holland Taylor to play Moore’s mother.
Lelio’s and Moore’s affection for the title character flows through every scene of “Gloria Bell,” a movie that says the stories of average women deserve to be told, as do the stories of people who grapple with big challenges but still face each day with hope and wonder.
Starring Julianne Moore, John Turturro and Michael Cera. Directed by Sebastian Lelio.
Rated R for strong language, partial nudity and drug use. Check listings for theaters. 1 hour, 42 minutes.
Bottom line: A story of an average woman that deserves to be told