The Chilean film "Gloria" is a movie without a plot. It's simply a character study of a 50-something-year-old divorced woman who is not needy, is not hiding secrets and is happy most of the time. What saves this wonderful film from abysmal boredom is great writing and an utterly brilliant performance by Paulina Garcia in the title role.
Gloria enjoys her life. She lives alone, visits her son and daughter on a regular basis and loves going solo to clubs, dancing into the wee hours. She's fairly attractive, aside from obnoxious eye wear, and relishes tackling anything new (i.e. bungee jumping, yoga, paintball shooting and pot smoking).
One evening, while out clubbing, Gloria meets a man who can't take his eyes off of her. His name is Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), a retired Naval officer who's recently divorced. Sparks fly, the two hook up and pretty quickly land in in bed with one another. But there's a glitch. His ex-wife and parasitic daughters are in constant need of him. And although he worships Gloria, Rodolfo can't help responding to his family's problems. At first, Gloria takes it in stride, but when Rodolfo abandons her on two occasions, she throws in the towel.
There's no stalking, no revenge (well, aside from gleefully paintballing Rodolfo's front door) and, basically, no regrets. Gloria gets on with her life and refuses to sweat the small stuff. We can't help but love and respect her even when she wakes up alone on the beach with a hangover sans Rodolfo.
Director Sebastian Lelio has masterfully created a character with flaws so easily overlooked just because of her character. We adore watching Gloria singing to the cheesy music in her car, taking laughing classes and opening her heart to anyone who's interested. Never to be pitied, Gloria always rises above life's little hurdles and comes out on top. And we enjoy watching.
It's impossible to take your eyes off of Garcia. She's literally in every frame of the film. It's a fearless performance, like a magnet drawing you in inescapably. She won the Best Actress Award at this year's Berlin Film Festival. "Gloria" was Chile's submission for this year's Best Foreign Language Oscar but, sadly, did not make the cut.
In the closing scene, Gloria gets out on the dance floor at a wedding reception and hoofs it alone to Umberto Tozzi's rendition of "Gloria." It's pure affirmation of a joyous life.
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