PLOT At a nightclub, a middle-aged woman meets a secretive man.
CAST Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, Brad Garrett
RATED R (nudity, sexuality, adult language)
PLAYING AT Sony Raceway 10, Westbury.
BOTTOM LINE Two great actors make this post-disco comedy-drama sing.
The hedonistic past and the pragmatic present come together in “Gloria Bell,” Sebastián Lelio’s film about a middle-aged divorcee from the disco generation. It’s a bittersweet but ebullient film with two of the finest actors around — Julianne Moore, in the title role, and John Turturro, as a mysterious clubgoer named Arnold — plus a musical backdrop of FM radio nuggets that somehow sound fresh again. Though hard to put a finger on, something about this movie feels like a corrective to the romantic fantasies and sexual horror stories that made the cinema of the 1970s so fabulous and fraught.
This American reworking of “Gloria,” the Chilean director’s acclaimed 2013 film, casts Moore as a recognizable type: A product of a heedless decade, once married, now single. Where else would she go but a local discotheque, where the basslines of her youth still thump? The film’s opening shot, a slow pan from decadent purple lighting down to a crowd of singles grooving on a ballroom floor, initially suggests another “Looking for Mr. Goodbar,” the 1977 drama that wagged a finger at fast women. The ladykillers in “Gloria Bell,” though, are gray at the temples now, clearly more interested in companionship than conquest.
Enter Turturro's Arnold, a squirrelly but endearing fellow who works up the courage to chat Gloria up at the bar. He’s divorced, too, he says. He has two daughters, runs a local paintball arena (an odd detail that will take on larger significance later) and was morbidly obese before undergoing gastric bypass surgery. Arnold is sensitive and kind, but also oddly immature. When peeved or upset, he simply vanishes without explanation.
“Gloria Bell” wavers between realistic drama and tender comedy, which makes for an uneven but never uninteresting mix. There are nice moments from Caren Pistorius as Gloria’s slightly distant daughter, some sharp laughs from Michael Cera as her beleaguered son and a very good turn from Brad Garrett as her still-smitten ex-husband. As for Moore and Turturro, they’re nothing short of perfect in these roles — the older woman whose sexuality now demands dignity, the older man who still hasn’t grown comfortably into his skin.
With Laura Branigan’s rousing “Gloria” as its theme song, the movie ends on an upbeat note of survival, happiness and triumph. We know that Gloria, just as she did in her youth, will get back on the dance floor.