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GLORIA BELL (In Theaters) by Victoria Alexander

An anthem for gorgeous, independent women memorialized by the magnificent Julianne Moore.

When we first meet Sebastián Lelio’s fabulous Gloria Bell (Julianne Moore), she is at a small nightclub bar. The club is a well-guarded secret in L.A. – it’s a hook-up dance club only for singles in their 50s and 60s.

Where are these clubs?

Gloria has a serene presence. She’s beautiful, has a job, two adult children (Michael Cera and Alanna Ubach) who do not need her, and friends (Rita Wilson). In a surprising twist on the trope, Gloria lives in an apartment and not a stunning house with a chef’s kitchen.

Do you know anyone who has been married for over two decades, has grown children and gets divorced? Something went wrong, right? Not in Hollywood movies. Gloria is so kind, present, and with the required L.A. mindfulness (without an objectionable attitude to ruin relationships), one wonders, what happened to her marriage?

One evening at the club, Arnold (John Turturro), approaches Gloria and, being a very modern woman with a very healthy sexual appetite, dance close and then end up in bed. Neither bother making any follow-up contact, so Gloria is surprised when a few days later, Arnold calls asking her out for a date.

Gloria has been divorced for twelve years from Dustin (Brad Garrett). Arnold, after losing hundreds of pounds, has been divorced a year. He’s still getting his sea legs and he’s experiencing motion sickness in the rough waters of the over 55 casual hook-up. He tells Gloria at lunch that he hasn’t stopped thinking about her.

Arnold takes Gloria on a series of Hollywood dates that rarely actually happen in real life. Gloria is game, willing and thoroughly enjoying herself doing new and exciting things that Arnold has introduced her to. Gloria is so agreeable, warm, loving and looks at Arnold – while he reads her some limp poetry – like he has entertained her with his awesomeness. Why did Dustin divorce her? If Gloria was blameless, she wasn’t blameless in sticking with Dustin for decades.

Arnold still cannot extricate himself from his ex-wife and his two unemployed, grown daughters. He gets calls from them constantly and even while making passionate love to Gloria, he keeps his phone on and answers it. There is always a crisis.

Gloria wants Arnold to tell his daughters and ex-wife he has a girlfriend. He says they are not ready. To show Arnold what she means about getting closer and acknowledging their romance, she takes him to her son’s birthday party. Gloria is thrilled to see Dustin after 5 years and finally meets his lovely wife (Jeanne Tripplehorn). Gloria praises her loveliness.

Gloria insensitively starts showing off old photos of her and Dustin’s life together and their great love. We never see how Dustin’s wife handles these reminisces about her husband’s young, zealous love, but Arnold is offended and gets up and slips out. Everyone is shocked by his rude behavior. Sitting next to Dustin and looking enthralled by him was a tad too much for Arnold.

I sided with Arnold.

In a rare moment that might have been a sly indicator of what happened, Dustin responds to his daughter’s news of her pregnancy with a sudden, violent outburst. Well, I guess we now know what Gloria had to put up with for twenty years.

Gloria is too self-assured and independent to bother taking Arnold back even after 1,000 cell calls, 3 dozen roses and some lovesick stalking. The subject of Arnold’s life being upturned so radically and his divorce crisis still raw, never is considered by Gloria. What was her first year being a divorcee like?

Wait until you see Sean Astin as the guy Gloria spends an evening with in Las Vegas.

Turturro is an inspired choice. He’s not drop-dead gorgeous. He’s an ordinary guy whose appreciation of Gloria is his most attractive trait – and, he is great in bed. But, as we learn about Arnold, we do not want him for our perfect Gloria.

Arnold has flaws and Gloria is an independent woman who doesn’t need a man to escort her around. She tries, but Arnold’s inability to face his divorce is the deal breaker. So, GLORIA BELL is an affirmation of a woman’s right to live a life on her own terms with dancing as a Holy Grail.


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