Julianne Moore is extremely good at singing in the car. This is not faint praise: Think of all the movies where the characters are supposed to express their personalities by indulging in a little car karaoke. With a few exceptions — I know, I know, “Wayne’s World” rules — this often looks forced and awkward.
But in “Gloria Bell,” Moore nails it. Driving alone, she warbles with a complete lack of self-consciousness, singing away for the sheer lonesome pleasure of it. The way people really do.
Moore rarely takes a wrong step in this project, an English-language remake of a lovely 2013 Chilean film, “Gloria.” There’s rarely a reason to remake a good film — in this case, both versions are admirable. But Moore is the main reason to see the new one.
She plays the title role, a divorcee with grown children who are super-busy leading their own lives (ably conveyed by the distracted Michael Cera and Caren Pistorius). Gloria works, and endures loud neighbors, and sometimes likes to go to a dance club where she meets people her age.
A good portion of the movie deals with her fledgling romance with a recently divorced man, Arnold (John Turturro), who she meets at the club. Arnold is very enthusiastic about Gloria, yet we might also worry a bit about his childlike nature, and how connected he is to his two daughters.
But “Gloria,” to its credit, isn’t primarily about this relationship. It’s a series of scenes from Gloria’s life, exploring her dogged personality. These scenes correspond very closely to the Chilean film, with a few new wrinkles; that movie’s director, Sebastian Lelio (he did the Oscar-winning “A Fantastic Woman”) repeats his duties here, and builds on some of the visual ideas from the earlier outing.
As Moore plays her, Gloria isn’t a flag-waving heroine, but a quiet soul who becomes a little annoyed that a callous world has decided to render her invisible after a certain age.
Little moments mean a lot. There’s a classic scene, involving a poem read aloud and a cellphone, that crushingly demonstrates how cellphones have made human existence yuckier.
The original film featured a wonderful turn by Paulina Garcia; Julianne Moore is even better. Moore has always been good at playing it cool until she needs to turn on the juice, and that’s the case with Gloria, an understated soul until she’s had enough.
The final sequence, which returns us to the dance club, should be studied by anybody with an interest in how a great actor communicates without words. In the space of three minutes or so, Moore uses her face and her body to express excitement, resignation, sadness, hope and sheer abandon. The entire movie builds up to that release, and the actress doesn’t disappoint.
“Gloria Bell” (3 stars)
Julianne Moore shines as a lonely soul navigating her way through a busy, indifferent world. Director Sebastian Lelio remakes his own 2013 Chilean film “Gloria,” and while this movie isn’t a huge improvement over that admirable film, it’s a great showcase for Moore. With John Turturro.
Rating: R, for nudity, language
Opening: Alderwood Mall, Meridian, Oak Tree, Seattle 10, Woodinville