Gloria (Roadside Attractions, R)

Gloria 75

Couple this vague form of grotesquerie with the fact that the characters feel like real people who you wouldn’t necessarily much like or want to spend time with in real life, and one starts to wonder if better things couldn’t have been done to illustrate the lives of this woefully underserved demographic.

 

One can assume that Roadside Attractions’ decision to time its release of Gloria right now was in hopes it would score an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign-Language Film. It didn’t; though it was Chile’s official submission, Gloria didn’t even make the shortlist, announced over a month ago. That hardly matters, though, as the FLF category is one of the most suspect and unpredictable of the whole ceremony (in terms of submissions, the shortlist, the nominees, the winner—the whole thing’s a mess), and now’s the time of year that people have more of a tendency to show their patience for, say, and Chilean film about a 50s-ish woman who is strong, smart, and sexually active. Now that’s a type you don’t often see as a main character in the movies.

As you can probably guess by the title, Gloria is a character piece, and is anchored by the performance of lead Paulina García, who has been getting heaps of praise for her turn here, not least of which winning the Silver Bear at the Berlinale around this time last year. Gloria’s a divorced mother of grown children, who in most other films would be portrayed as desperately lonely, but here Gloria has enough control over her life to avoid that trap. She enjoys going dancing in bars, and early in the film picks up a sweet older man named Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández), with whom she spends most of the film’s runtime pursuing a relationship with. Rodolfo means well, but is perhaps still too entangled with his ex-wife and their kids, and that’s something Gloria doesn’t have much patience for. Again, funny that Gloria is portrayed as the strong one and Rodolfo the wishy-washy, weak one. Neither seems overmuch like a stereotype or stock character, either; they’re lived-in human beings that seem like people you might have encountered somewhere along the line.

In that way, though, the characters wind up being dislikeable in a way I don’t think was intentional. Realistic, yes, but it can be frustrating to spend Gloria’s 110-minute runtime with them. The film is fleetingly compelling, and there are a handful of memorably-executed scenes, but it’s also hard not to wonder what co-writer/director Sebastián Lelio is going for here—while Gloria’s not made to look ugly, she is dressed in unflattering, huge glasses, and cinematographer Benjamín Echazaretta seems to fixate on her somewhat rodent-like mouth. Couple this vague form of grotesquerie with the fact that the characters feel like real people who you wouldn’t necessarily much like or want to spend time with in real life, and one starts to wonder if better things couldn’t have been done to illustrate the lives of this woefully underserved demographic. | Pete Timmermann

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