Bars. Dancing. Hot sex. Cigarettes. Sounds like a movie that takes place in Miami in the 1980s, but in reality it's Gloria, a present-day movie about a divorced Chilean woman in her early 50s.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of Gloria and what it's about, some notes on the marketing and advertising. Gloria is not some profound rumination on what it means to find yourself; it is not the first movie ever to feature older people in love; and it is not the first movie ever to feature an older woman as a free spirit. *In fact, Gloria isn't really a free spirit. How did that line even get into the ad copy?
Those 112 words above are intended to disabuse viewers of the notion that they will be getting something unique. They will not. They may find a well-constructed, well-told, wholly unoriginal story. And "wholly unoriginal," in this sense, is not pejorative. It's just that Gloria has echoes to lots of other, better movies.
Gloria (Paulina García) is a lonely woman, divorced, with two adult children living busy lives of their own. She has a decent office job. Most nights, she goes to a club—the kind that plays disco unironically—and tries to meet people. Or she attempts to try to meet people.
One night, she strikes up a conversation with Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández). Soon they're dancing, and then they're back at his place having passionate sex. One gets the feeling from watching these scenes that it's the first time in a long time for both of them.
In short order, they're spending lots of time together. But Rodolfo, who's been divorced for about a year, is cagey. He doesn't want to introduce Gloria to his adult daughters. And he doesn't want to fill Gloria in on the intricacies of his relationship with his ex-wife.
One thing is clear: She's comfortable introducing Rodolfo to friends and family, but he's not. And he's so uncomfortable at a birthday party for Gloria's son that he leaves in the middle of it without telling anyone.
It's the first time—and not the last—that he does something so incredibly selfish that it's hard to fathom. And over the course of the narrative, in slowish, deliberate scene after slowish, deliberate scene, it becomes clear to Gloria what should be clear to anyone: Rodolfo is a weak-willed, browbeaten jerk. But sometimes it takes being abandoned at a hotel to discover that, you know?
What makes Gloria easier to take is the skill of its actors. García and Hernández give the kinds of performances that feel lived in, not acted. In particular, Hernández's every stutter, stammer and hem and haw feels of the moment as if he's been playing Rodolfo his whole life.
Gloria does have her revenge, and it's a funny, uncharacteristic revenge, but it's a long time coming. And of course the movie ends with the Gloria dancing to the song "Gloria."
*Please see, for starters, Shirley Valentine, Something's Gotta Give, Harold and Maude and, God forbid, Grumpy Old Men.
Directed by Sebastián Lelio
With Paulina García and Sergio Hernández
UA DeVargas 6