Saturday, March 1, 2014

Gloria (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Paulina García gives a nuanced performance that is so detailed and precise that it is almost a study in miniature. In Sebastián Lelio's (The Year of the Tiger) "Gloria" takes us to Chile into the life of an older woman who lives an interior and passive life, but who nonetheless remains open to surprise and unexpectedness.

There have been an infinite number of lukewarm feel-goods about women who find their stride in their mature years. Some are solid and some are sappy. Others resort to corny gags. Thankfully, director Lelio and Paulina Garcia put it all on the table as is, without sap,  Saccharin, or syrupy climaxes.

Gloria is an average but quirkily-edged woman who lives alone and has an ice-cubed office job. Regardless, like a feminine Walter Mitty, her mind is carbonated with buoyant colors. She remains privately effervescent with her own sense of joy.

While usually a bit of a wallflower at a disco, she gets an urge to engage Roldolpho (Sergio Fernández) in conversation and the two hit it off. Roldolpho owns an amusement park and he is a buttery charmer on the level of an older Jean-Paul Belmondo. But unbeknownst to Gloria, our leather-loafing Romeo has anxiety issues, still tethered to his ex-wife. While appearing to want to plunge into amour, Rodolpho is  henpecked and timid. Gloria is left adrift after a disastrous family gathering, forced to create her own mental romantic fauna.

Pop songs help. Anything to combat her cluttered apartment with its upstairs cacophony, and the sight of a hairless sphynx, a feline Andy Warhol who takes some spatial liberties.

While this film might seem to have some Sex-and the -City / Bucket List trappings of a woman gone wild, this is a clever trick to ensnare those of us who are popcorn minded.

To its credit, this film is a sister to the haunting and meditative "The Great Beauty" albeit on a smaller and more insular plane. Faced with riddle after perplexing riddle, Gloria accepts the semi-carnival---and carnivorous---haze that is her existence and tempts fate. The glare of death, personified by human loudness and the white bone of a skeletal marionette, patiently waits ahead.

Gloria even sees a beautiful white peacock that abruptly appears, analogous to the giraffe in Sorrentino's formerly mentioned film.

In situations that would bring most women down, Gloria rises, sometimes in subtlety, forever upbeat. Left cast aside, she forges ahead masked by the glitter of a disco ball as sweaty and bearded men plow into her, their lips and tongues becoming drunken suckers, strange and insatiable. As if to push the point, Gloria is indeed swept on a beach, yesterday's mermaid.

At such moments "Gloria" echoes "Looking For Mr. Goodbar" in its seedy darkness and drear.

But not for long.

"Gloria" owes its quiet wonder to Sebastián Lelio and Paulina Garcia who work together to show this lady as a genuine engine, who is sometimes caught between hemp and happenstance, or even the rueful march of her namesake disco tune syncopated and beaten by Father (or Mother) Time.

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