Gloria Bell Has All The Hot Sex You Want This Weekend

Photo: Courtesy of A24 films.
Warning: This story contains mild spoilers for Gloria Bell.
There’s a lot of sex in Gloria Bell. And not demure, push the twin beds together, skip over the good part and see them panting over a cigarette afterwards kind of sex. It’s slow, breathy, naked, sexy sex, the kind that you would expect in prestige TV about the difficult dating lives of attractive New Yorkers in their 20s. Less so a film about the day-to-day experiences of a woman in her late 50s.
Sebastian Lelio’s near shot-for-shot remake of his own 2013 Chilean drama stars Julianne Moore as Gloria, a fifty-something divorcée who counters the drudgery of everyday life by going out dancing. One night, she meets Arnold (John Turturro), another divorcee navigating the tough line between being there for his kids and carving out time to start a new life. Their one-night stand evolves into the kind of whirlwind, passionate courtship that is almost never depicted on screen — at least not when the two humans involved have passed the age of 40.
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At 58, Moore has been outspoken about the necessity to show a wider spectrum of women’s experiences. “It’s important to see women make mistakes at different stages. Just because you get older, you don’t know everything, and it’s not like you stop living,” she recently told the New York Times.
Gloria Bell is quiet film. There are no plot pyrotechnics or unforeseen twists. It’s largely about a woman’s day-to-day routine as she carves out an identity for herself beyond the traditional labels of wife or mother. Her kids are adults with children of their own, and little time for her; she’s good at her job but concerned about being able to retire with any kind of financial stability; her upstairs neighbor throws loud fits in the middle of the night; a hairless cat keeps showing up in her living room. Hence the nightly dancing at a club where attractive people in their 50s go to mingle.
What’s striking is the sense of this all being part of a continuum — Gloria’s not recently divorced. It’s been 12 years, which means Arnold probably isn’t her first fling.

"If suddenly somebody's sitting there all covered up at home, you're sending a signal to my brain that this isn't true and you're taking [viewers] out of the story."

Julianne Moore
Lelio depicts the full cycle of their relationship, including the initial seduction (I never thought I would say this, but John Turturro nails the smoldering look), and multiple sexual encounters, but also their burgeoning intimacy afterwards. In one striking scene, the two are chatting in bed after an afternoon romp, with Gloria half-sitting up, topless. It’s the kind of thing that should be banal — and probably would be if the characters were in their 20s. As their rapport sours, so too does the sex.
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Too often, sex between older adults is depicted as awkward parent sex, or played for laughs. And even then, the act itself isn’t shown on screen. Think of Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin sneaking around in It’s Complicated, or Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson in Something’s Gotta Give. A passionate kiss gives way to some jaunty Nancy Meyers French Provence guitar, and cut to them in bed afterwards.
Not here. Moore and Turturro both appear in various states of undress in scenes in which their characters are shown having sex.
"Somebody asked me, 'How do you become comfortable?' And I'm like, 'You don't. Nobody's comfortable,' " Moore told USA Today about the nudity in the film. “We were very sparing and very specific about it, just because we wanted to lend it a level of reality. If suddenly somebody's sitting there all covered up at home, you're sending a signal to my brain that this isn't true and you're taking [viewers] out of the story."
I saw Gloria Bell a couple of days after watching the absolute best episode of Netflix’s Dating Around. If you’ve seen the show, you know I mean the one involving Leonard, a charming widower in his 60s who’s looking for a new partner. His storyline was striking for many of the same reasons Gloria’s is — we simply don’t think of people over 50 as sexual beings, or being part of the dating scene, and if we do, it’s usually as part of a punchline. But both Dating Around and Gloria Bell treat dating — and by extension, loneliness, chemistry, and sex — with the kind of serious, complicated nuances usually reserved for younger people’s love stories.
And whether that means telling lame frog jokes four times, or jetting off to Las Vegas for a drug-fuelled heartbreak weekend, these are experiences that deserve screen time. Plus, a hot sex scene is a hot sex scene. There’s no age limit for that.
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