GLORIA BELL: Director/writer Sebastian Lelio’s (A FANTASTIC WOMAN) favorite subjects have been highly admirable females who manage to rise above their sometimes challenging circumstances in spite of flaws that usually stem from their very humanity. It’s an apt description of the title character in Lelio’s Americanized remake of his 2013 film made in his native Chile about a lonely, middle-aged divorcee (Julianne Moore) who fills in the emotional gaps in her life by going dancing in the kinds of bars/clubs that keep disco and early ‘80s pop anthems alive for the AARP set trying valiantly to recapture their youth. She’s a sort of cinematic distant cousin of Diane Keaton in LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR (1977) minus the sexually risky behavior. Her monotony is pleasantly disrupted when she meets a newly single man (John Turturro) who’s a former Marine that appreciates poetry who may not be the unattached male he says he is. All this plays out while she has to deal with adult children (Michael Cera, Caren Pistorius) so ensconced in their own lives that she feels the necessity to identify herself to them when she leaves voicemails, an ex-husband (Brad Garrett) who still appears to be subtly tugging at her plus a hairless feline continuously trespassing in her house in an attempt to turn her into a future “crazy cat lady”. Moore (See CLOSING CREDITS.) delivers a powerhouse performance that’s wonderfully understated in a way that allows us to interpret every emotion going on inside her. I liken her to being America’s Helen Mirren (THE QUEEN) in that she can excel at her craft in her middle years while still being able to get away with showing some skin to accentuate her character’s sexuality. In contrast to the strong females present here are portrayals of men who come off as indecisive, ineffectual and downright undependable which is sort of disappointing since the males’ storylines go pretty much undeveloped even though some are potentially absorbing in their own right. At times, the narrative injects a sort of contrived quirkiness into the proceedings which feel out of place. Nonetheless, the title character’s moment of empowering retribution is the cleverest use of paintball that I’ve seen on film (Not that there are a lot of those.) along with a solo dance that is one of the better embodiments of female empowerment since Jill Clayburgh pushed a heavy objet d’art up multiple city blocks in AN UNMARRIED WOMAN (1978). Thoreau once said that the masses lead lives of quiet desperation. But this is a pleasant enough work about the kind of people who live those lives yet manage to proceed on with life in the constant hope that things will eventually get better. CRITIC’S GRADE: B

CLOSING CREDITS: Here are some other good/excellent movies with Julianne Moore who’s one of our most underrated actresses. – BENNY & JOON (1993), THE FUGITIVE (1993), VANYA ON 42ND STREET (1994), SURVIVING PICASSO (1996), BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997)*, COOKIE’S FORTUNE (1999), THE END OF THE AFFAIR (1999)**, AN IDEAL HUSBAND (1999), MAGNOLIA (1999), A MAP OF THE WORLD (1999), THE SHIPPING NEWS (2001), FAR FROM HEAVEN (2002)**, THE HOURS (2002)*, THE PRIZE WINNER OF DEFIANCE, OHIO (2005), CHILDREN OF MEN (2006), THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE (2009), A SINGLE MAN (2009), THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (2010), WHAT MAISIE KNEW (2013), DON JON (2013), NON-STOP (2014), STILL ALICE (2014)***

*Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actress

**Academy Award Nomination for Best Actress

***Academy Award Winner for Best Actress