The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Gloria | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Gloria

A fifty-something divorcee re-enters the dating scene.

Directed by: Sebastian Lelio
Starring: Paulina Garcia, Sergio Hernandez, Diego Fontecilla

Chile's entry for the 2014 Foreign Language Oscar is the character study of Gloria (Garcia), a middle-aged, middle-class divorcee who prowls the mature singles clubs of Santiago, looking for her Senor Goodbar. A series of encounters with men leads nowhere until she meets paintball park owner Rodolfo (Hernandez), an odd but charming man who, like Gloria, has come through a divorce. The two plunge quickly into a passionate relationship but Rodolfo's behavior becomes increasingly antisocial and his ex-wife and two adult daughters (who refuse to work while he supports them financially) are a constant menace.
Cinema so often behaves like a playground bully, stealing from other artforms to paper over the deficiencies of uninventive film-makers. Music is so often the victim. How many times have you been moved by a scene in an otherwise unremarkable film, only to wonder if it's the director's choice of a great piece of music that's stirring your emotions, rather than any great piece of visual film-making? There are three such moments in Sebastian Lelio's latest film; a charming group singalong to Brazilian songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim's beautiful tune 'Aguas de Marco', a Kubrickian shot of a disconsolate Gloria in a hair salon with the adagietto from Mahler's fifth symphony (one of the most overused pieces of music in cinema since its iconic use in 'Death in Venice') playing in the background (Chilean hairdressers seemingly have far more sophisticated musical taste than their European counterparts), and a final cathartic dance to a Spanish language cover of Laura Branigan's eighties hit 'Gloria'. All three are stirring moments in their own right but Lelio and his film have done nothing to earn such borrowed euphoria. 
Aside from a hilariously offbeat revenge scene involving a paintball gun, the film is bland, humorless and quite tedious. Gloria isn't a particularly interesting character (though Garcia is admittedly outstanding in the role) and if her creator intends us to sympathize with her he's way off the mark. Her actions are mostly infuriating and she's the type of character you want to shake rather than hug. The film has no real direction and subplots (an insane young neighbor, her daughter's pregnancy) lead nowhere. There's an interesting film to be made about a character like Gloria (most likely by a female film-maker) but Lelio doesn't seem to be the one to pull it off.

Eric Hillis