Friday 14 June 2019

Gloria Bell ★★★★☆

There has been a recent trend in world cinema filmmakers remaking their own films for an English-language audience – I suppose they’re the most suited to remake the films than anyone else! Celebrated Norwegian filmmaker Hans Petter Moland made his Hollywood debut this year with Cold Pursuit, a remake of his 2014 film In Order of Disappearance. Michael Haneke famously remade his twisted Funny Games ten years after his original shocked the 1997 Cannes Film Fest. Now, Sebastián Lelio has remade his award-winning Gloria almost shot-for-shot as Gloria Bell, featuring a phenomenal performance from the great Julianne Moore in the lead.

The film follows the titular Gloria Bell (Moore), a free-spirited divorcee who spends her nights on the dance floor, joyfully letting loose at clubs around Los Angeles. She soon finds herself thrust into an unexpected new romance with Arnold (John Turturro), filled with the joys of budding love and the complications of dating. Despite moving the setting from Santiago to Los Angeles in this US-set remake, the film still has the feeling of independent world cinema and not Hollywoodised tosh.

The film absolutely belongs to the fabulous Julianne Moore who deserves every accolade under the sun for this understated and layered performance. Appearing in almost every single frame of the film, Gloria is a complex character hiding behind a care-free attitude and permanent smile. Julianne puts so much character into Gloria’s eyes and demeanour in a role that isn’t showy or hammy, but incredibly subtle. It is remarkable work from a consistently engaging and unforgettable actress. But the supporting cast – including Turturro, Michael Cera and Sean Astin – are all stunning too and don’t exist purely in Moore’s shadow. 

The film’s visuals are utterly wonderful. Shot in peachy and saturated neon by cinematographer Natasha Braier, the film transports the viewer to the world of LA nightlife with the film’s look alone. Complimented wonderfully by a stellar soundtrack – including Bonnie Tyler and Paul McCartney – the film oozes style. But it is not a film of style over substance. Director Lelio has described this film as not a remake but rather a ‘cover version’ of his original film, and that feels accurate. Despite being near shot-for-shot and packed with the same story and character beats, there is certainly a feeling of freshness and originality to Gloria Bell that makes the film feel like it could stand alone – or at the very least, as a loving tribute to the original film.

The film raises an interesting discussion for film fans. If a remake is to be made, should it be reserved for the original film’s director? And furthermore, are remakes ok if they’re made by the original filmmaker? Are they even a remake at all? There’s a lot to think about in the wake of Lelio, Haneke and Moland’s remakes of their own works – and something that we may very well see a lot more of in the future. But for now, it certainly feels like these ‘remakes’ are in the most capable hands and it shows in the final products – Gloria Bell is a wonderful little film full of heart, a phenomenal lead performance and truly beautiful visuals. The film took me by surprise and kept me utterly entranced for the duration, and I think it will have the same effect on you. 

Sam Love

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