There’s something completely "catchy" about the theme song for the film "Gloria." It was recorded in 1979 by Italian recording artist Umberto Tozzi, and became an International disco hit that achieved its highest profile when it was recorded in the United States by Laura Branigan. The lyrics in the two versions are completely different, the sentiment is in no way the same, but the music somehow overtakes you and makes the song universal across cultures. So it is with this film.
This is the kind of movie that would be described as "hard to sell" in Hollywood. In other words, it doesn’t have a young, male protagonist; it kind of has the opposite of that. But it still has all the warm, life-affirming heart and humor that make the Hollywood narrative so attractive. On the other hand, this Chilean film from director Sebastian Leto has the objective, naturalistic style and simple, thoughtful plotting that scares audiences away from cinema in the U.S.
Gloria (Paulina García) is a middle-class, working divorcée. Her children are all grown and she lives desperately alone, with no one for company but a crazy neighbor upstairs (who keeps her up all night violently screaming and crying) and the neighbor’s hairless cat (who breaks into her apartment and is almost as irritating as the neighbor). Her main social outlet is going to the singles club and dancing. Though the music has the same appeal as it did back in her disco days, this activity is ultimately as lonely and unsatisfying as throwing out the hairless cat.
Then she meets a man who might change all that. Rondolfo (Sergio Hernández) seems to have a lust for life; he owns an amusement park and introduces Gloria to bungee jumping and paintball. Best of all, he absolutely adores her and he’s kind of a tiger in the sack.
Unfortunately, he also has a lot of baggage from his ex-wife and codependent daughters that he justifies to Gloria with excuses, blame and passive-aggressive behavior.
Words like "charming" and "empowering" sound like tremendous clichés, which this film is anything but. "Gloria" shines with the kind of powerful, funny, charming and kick-ass moments that woman in Hollywood yearn for and that audiences around the world are craving. And García, who won the Silver Bear award for Best Actress at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival where the film premiered, delivers these moments in spades. "Gloria" is the kind of character and the kind of movie we need more of.
The DVD released by Lionsgate has optional English and Spanish subtitles. Behind-the-scenes special features are making-of footage edited as musical montages to great disco music, like Umberto Tozzi’s hit song.