‘Gloria’ celebrates the single life in Chile


“Gloria,” Chile’s Oscar entry for Best Foreign Film, comes to the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center this weekend. The vibrant, 50-something woman played by Paulina Garcia at the center of this romantic comedy suggests life has a lot to offer.

“Gloria” opens at a disco full of mostly middle-aged, middle-class dancers, including the heroine. Later, in her apartment, she ousts her upstairs neighbor’s hairless cat, a creature that seems to like her domicile better than its own. Soon, Gloria is singing along to the pop music on her car radio and touching base with her adult children by phone. She visits her son, Pedro (Diego Fontecilla), who is caring for her infant grandson, then heads to a yoga class led by her daughter, Ana (Fabiola Zamora).

Next it’s back to the dance floor, where she meets and beds Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), a retired naval officer who runs a game park for paintball enthusiasts. In the film’s numerous sex scenes, director Sebastien Lelio is happy to train the camera’s eye on the sagging breasts and paunchy love handles that are the hallmarks of mid-life. Like Gloria, Rodolfo is divorced, but he hasn’t quite severed the emotional ties to his ex-wife and two daughters. Gloria and Rodolfo’s on-again, off-again romance becomes the focal point of the film.

When Gloria brings him along to a birthday party for her son, Rodolfo disappears in the middle of the festivities. A master of mixed signals, he takes flight several more times throughout the film. What is Gloria to do? Well, she carries on. That means going to work, spending additional time with her children, dancing and singing, even smoking pot mistakenly deposited at her door by the drunken upstairs neighbor.

Life for the middle aged includes the kinds of health issues that younger couples usually don’t have to worry about. Once overweight, Rodolfo has had gastric bypass surgery and wears a girdle to contain his flabby stomach muscles, while Gloria discovers that she has glaucoma. Health issues aside, Gloria is game for target shooting with a paintball gun and launching herself on an aerial ride.

When Rodolfo pulls yet another disappearing act during a trip to a gambling resort outside Santiago, Gloria quickly finds a substitute to spend the night with. She wakes up on a beach with a hangover. Rescued by her housekeeper, Gloria pulls herself together, has her hair done, and gets herself gussied up. Along the way to a party for the daughter of friends, she figures out how to take just the right kind of revenge on Rodolfo.

What does all this activity add up to?  Not much, but Gloria finally takes off her ugly, oversized glasses and happily dances away. The moral of the story is that life for the middle-aged –– whether in Chile or the U.S. –– may not be as exciting as it is for Walter White of “Breaking Bad,” but it has its consolations.

“Gloria”, “Friday, February 21, 7:30 pm; Saturday, February 22, 7:30 pm; Sunday, February 23, 4 pm.

“Girl on a Bicycle,” Thursday, February 20, 7:30 pm.

“Oscar Nominated Shorts: Animation,” Friday, February 21, 4 pm.

“Oscar Nominated Shorts: Live Action,” Saturday, February 22, 4 pm.

“Oscar Nominated Shorts: Documentary,” Sunday, February 23, 7:30 pm.

Classic Film Night: “Pillow Talk,” Wednesday, February 26, 7:30 pm.  All films at M.V. Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven.  Tickets, $12 (M.V. Film Society members, $9; 14 and under, $7). For tickets and information, see www.mvfilmsociety.com.