The effervescent, energetic and unquenchable heroine of writer-director Sebastián Lelio's "Gloria" is long-divorced, given to moments of sadness -- about life, about Chile -- but determined not to surrender to time, gravity or someone else's expectations. Powered by Paulina Garcia's bravura performance, "Gloria" can't help but suggest a Hollywood remake with an actress half her age and with half her wits, and half the refreshing effrontery of Lelio's frankly honest portraiture.
Dancing at the Santiago nightclub where the over-50s meet and flirt, Gloria dances with the physical abandon of a teenager, and, perhaps, some of the self-awareness of a woman with grandchildren. She is looking for love, warily, perhaps because it's bitten her before. She has sex with the arduous and fraughtly named Rodolfo (see "La Bohème"), played by Sergio Hernández, who is a bit too forthcoming with declarations of love to pass Gloria's security test. But he is a nice man, with a military background -- the revelation of which brings the haunted state of Chile into focus, and puts a new perspective on the state of Gloria and her contemporaries. The subtext of the film isn't political, necessarily, but the ingredients to Gloria include the country around her, as much as the passionate person inside.
Never saccharine, never maudlin, "Gloria" is about a woman with a life: She's a mother, a grandmother, she dances, she does yoga, she takes laugh therapy (and laughs the loudest) and she wants love, though not at any cost. The message, if one needs to look for one, is that the course of romance is no smoother at 50 than it is at 15, when heedlessness is an advantage to plunging into love. The same is true, as Gloria finds, when bungee-jumping.
PLOT Chilean woman keeps her mojo working.
RATING R (nudity, profanity, sexuality)
CAST Paulina Garcia, Sergio Hernández
BOTTOM LINE Marvelously feel-good movie -- with bite -- about a woman who won't go gentle into "dignified" middle age. (In Spanish, with English subtitles)