Paulina Garcia plays a middle aged divorcee back in the dating scene in "Gloria." Credit: Roadside Attractions
‘Gloria’ Director: Sebastian Lelio Stars: Paulina Garcia, Sergio Hernandez Rating: R 3 (out of 5) Globes
In any other age, the Chilean “Gloria” would be perceived as an atypical midlife crisis picture. Instead, in the wake of movies and shows about women struggling to find love and/or careers in an unkind world, it can be treated as an atypical (and not just older) version of “Bridesmaids,” “Girls” and “Frances Ha.” Gloria (Paulina Garcia) is 58, which is why she’s first introduced clubbing. But she’s not desperate or pathetic. Unlike the heroes of the aforementioned films, she’s comfortable in her skin, despite being a divorcee thrust back into the horrors and irritations of the dating scene.
What’s more, she not only has money and a comfy upper-middle-class existence. She also may have found Mr. Right within the first handful of minutes. Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez) is even older and, as Gloria learns upon their first tryst, has to wear a girdle. It’s a much bigger deal that he’s far more of a mess than she is, dealing with the death of a marriage with less aplomb. While Gloria finds the support of her children, Rodolfo has two pesky daughters and an ex-wife who constantly calls him. Much worse, he answers, every single time.
Even as their path goes from passionate to less assured, “Gloria” hangs by her side. It doesn’t necessarily TAKE her side. Rodolfo may wind up with a less sturdy spine than initially assumed, but Gloria isn’t completely together. It laughs with her as she tries to stay composed as he reads her a barf-worthy poem about how he’d like to be sap if she was a tree and the blood in her heart and so forth. But the film, and Garcia's razor sharp yet loose performance, allows her to be arrogant, to be flighty, to be a mess. Just because she shows no shame singing along to cheesy pop songs in the car doesn’t mean she won’t humiliate herself later by getting too drunk and running off with a sleazeball.
“Gloria” was produced by Pablo Larrain, debatably Chile’s current leading filmmaker. Larrain tends to tackle heavier material, including films about life under dictator Augusto Pinochet (“Tony Manero” and “No”). That doesn’t make “Gloria” significantly less vital, especially given director Sebastian Lelio exacting style. For the most part, scenes are banged out in one expertly judged, cinemascope shot, which serve to trap the characters in tidy microcosms. But they’d like to escape, even if they won’t, and that tension — plus a strong sense of humor, albeit one that goes a touch too far by adding revenge-by-paintgun — helps fuel “Gloria.”