Gloria Bell (R)
Julianne Moore is a walking miracle. At 58 she plays a woman in her 50s and looks like a woman in her early 40s.
Surrounded by a top-notch supporting cast, she triumphs in the difficult story of Gloria—addicted to youth. She sings all the top songs, she dances with anybody, and often alone, at various clubs and, coming off a divorce from Brad Garrett (Dustin), she is open to new sexual adventures as well. Seriously, her face and figure totally belie her age—and that is largely the point of the film.
She asks target Arnold (John Turturro): “How long divorced?” “One year,” he replies. “Recently,” she says. “Finally,” he answers. It is not long before they are in bed together, and she thinks she may have found love. She also loves his occupation of running a paintball ranch, but it’s a love of convenience, not a deep love. She takes him to a family party for son Peter (Michael Cera), but she pays too much attention to her family and leaves Arnold in the dark with no one to talk with. He leaves. Rupture no. 1 in the relationship.
She moves from being a nonsmoker to vaping, then smoking and next marijuana. Her dresses become more daring, and she eventually has her hair done and lightened. She is clearly going to start over in her search for youth.
In addition to Moore’s incredible performance, the music in this film is remarkable. The score is highly varied and, even with Moore’s amateurish singing accompanying it, it rocks the place from time to time.
Among the stars in this film, a number stand out. It’s good to see Jeanne Tripplehorn in a big film again. Sean Astin, Brad Garrett, Holland Taylor and Rita Wilson all have significant parts and strengthen the cast generally.
Perhaps the saddest moment in the film comes when Arnold’s empty eyes greet Gloria’s invitation to go to Spain on an extended vacation. As they say, “It just ain’t goin’ to happen.” It’s his loss.
Striking pictorially but extremely obscure and odd, this film is garnering a lot of conversation but not much enlightenment.
There is a frequent attempt at humor, primarily from the father, Gabe (Winston Duke), but even with his screen family, let alone the audience, the humor usually seems out of place and lame.
Lupita Nyong’o does a serviceable job as the mother, Adelaide, but her alter ego, Red, is a bit over the top. Some might say her alter ego has to be. I would disagree, primarily because I believe that to be truly and deeply frightening, such characters have to have a rational, controlled character that erupts into violence. Red, Adelaide’s alter, simply erupts.
I found Winston Duke’s Gabe a total failure as a character. The character is a wimp, a blowhard, a braggart—and Duke can’t act very well. The whole adds up to a highly disappointing character, especially balanced against Nyong’o’s strength and poise under pressure.
There are problems with believability: the Santa Cruz police are called and never show up for unexplained reasons, a boat engine keeps stalling out, only to gun to life at appropriate moments that are too coincidental, and the main conceit, that we all have dual natures and that the bad side of us is organizing to get rid of the good, comes from nowhere. In fact, the basic problem with this film is that there is no explanation for the appearance of the “Red People,” the doppelgangers for the rest of the cast. Why are the Red People organizing and trying to take over the country? They just appear and start committing mayhem.
The photography is stunning, the music effective and Elizabeth Moss as Kitty Tyler does an excellent job while her screen husband, Tim Heidecker, contributes extremely little. There are parts for scads of rabbits, but all in all I’d suggest avoiding Halls of Mirrors until the furor dies down. Leave the kids at home as the rating suggests. Nyong’o spends most of her time in a ripped top, totally soaked in blood. Not a pretty picture.