Director Sebastián Lelio made history at the 2018 Academy Awards when he brought Chile its first ever Best Foreign Language Film prize. Though the movie he won it for, A Fantastic Woman, almost seems like it could be the title of his entire oeuvre: Again and again, he bathes his female subjects — from the dancing divorcée in 2013’s Gloria to Fantastic’s trans nightclub singer to the Orthodox lesbian lovers in last year’s Disobedience — in a kind of tender, full-fledged humanity that other auteurs, let alone mainstream Hollywood, rarely touches.
The title character in his joyful English-language remake of Gloria seems ordinary by almost any measure (the inconvenient truth of Julianne Moore’s movie-star cheekbones aside): A fiftysomething Los Angeles insurance agent, she drifts mostly unseen between her job and her apartment and her half-oblivious children (Michael Cera and Caren Pistorius) — not so much mistreated as benignly erased by late middle age.
But she still lives for the little things, like taking herself out to the dark discos where other like-minded anonymous boomers let themselves go on the dance floor. That’s where she meets Arnold (John Turturro), recently single and almost instantly smitten — though not perhaps as available, or as worthy, as he seems.
Through it all, Gloria carries on: singing wildly along to her car radio, chatting amicably through a bikini wax, getting stoned alone on the living-room floor. And Moore—vulnerable but undauntable—lives every moment in her skin, fantastic to the last glorious frame. A–