The Big Screen
12:00 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Movie Review: Gloria

Larry Thomas has a review of the 2013 Chilean-Spanish drama Gloria, now showing at the Mariemont Theatre.

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Every so often, in between films featuring the latest 3-D animated tale or a panicked populace attempting to avoid a zombie apocalypse, it’s nice to spend a couple of hours in the dark with some regular people.

Such is the case with Gloria, a film from Chile, which was that country’s official entry into the Oscar nominations. It didn’t make the final cut, but is well worth seeing nonetheless.

The eponymous lady of the title is a 50-something divorcee trying to cope on her own. She goes to work, she goes to the dance clubs to dance alone, and given the usual dynamics of a dysfunctional family, has difficulty connecting with her kids.

Gloria is her own person, but after ten years or so of the single life, she succumbs to the charm of Rodolfo, a recent divorcee, with whom she embarks on a torrid affair… sort of like a Last Tango in Santiago. But as Gloria discovers, almost everyone, and every family, has a certain degree of dysfunctionality. Rodolfo is adventurous, successful, and seems to have plenty of resources. But Rodolfo also has his fair share of familial baggage.

The glue holding all this together is the terrific performance from Paulina Garcia as Gloria. Even while covering the gamut of emotions in her various situations, she never comes off as a drama queen. She is in control of her character and makes you interested in her, as well as what she will do next in her life.

As directed and co-written by Sebastian Lelio, Gloria has a similar feel to the films of Woody Allen, during his serious, Bergman-influenced phase, as well as those of the great John Cassavetes. Granted, you’ll have you reset you movie-pacing clock to a foreign sensibility, as it doesn’t jump from punch line, to action sequence, to something else to distract you from the plot and the character that drives this charming, sad, funny, heartbreaking journey of discovery for this woman who is attempting to make lemonade from the lemons she’s been given.

There’s one particular scene in which Gloria’s family and extended family gather for the first time in ten years to celebrate her son’s birthday. It’s beautifully lit, and set around the dinner table, and gives us enough glimpses at Gloria’s back-story so that we too are able to empathize with her plight. Not that everyone at the table is an ogre, but they all have their own baggage and back-stories.

And with that title, you have to expect one of the songs titled Gloria to make an appearance, which it does in the final scenes over the closing credits. It’s the original Chilean version of Gloria that was covered as a disco sensation in the county by the late Laura Branigan in the 1980s. Once again, Paulina Garcia makes the screen glow as she moves and sways to this song, giving us the feeling that maybe it’s not such a bad thing to dance alone.

Be aware, however, that Gloria does contain a fair amount of nudity and sexual activity, so don’t take the kids or your prim Aunt Minnie.  The R-rated Gloria is now showing at the Mariemont Theatre, and it is a charmer.

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