What’s with all the remakes of decent if not exceptional foreign films lately? In recent months, we’ve seen Americanized versions of the 2011 feel-good French film The Intouchables (remade as The Upside), the 2014 Norwegian crime drama In Order of Disappearance (remade as Cold Pursuit), and now, Chile’s 2013 romdramedy Gloria (remade into Gloria Bell). In the case of Cold Pursuit and Gloria Bell, we’re treated to nearly shot-by-shot, word-for-word redundancy delivered by the same directors who helmed the original, well-received foreign flicks. Hey, let’s just throw in a lead actor popular with American audiences and do it all over again. Box office gold, right? Um, no.
I don’t think I got around to watching Gloria back in 2013/2014. Arty Chick reviewed it, and from what I could tell, it wasn’t going to be my cup of tea. But I’m older and wiser now so I figured I’d give the remake a shot, since it stars Julianne Moore, who can generally play just about anything. Sure enough, she’s good, playing a free-spirited, middle-aged divorcee who keeps her groove on by frequenting a nightclub for mature folks. She falls into a relationship with fellow divorcee Arnold (John Turturro) and well, it gets complicated as they both confront issues relating to dating, family, identity, respect for a partner and for oneself. I wasn’t feeling any chemistry between Gloria and Arnold. It’s possible I wasn’t supposed to. That may be part of the film’s point. But it left me cold for the relationship, and generally bored with the film. I could relate to, and empathize with certain aspects of Gloria and her life, and even her taste in music. Just not enough to embrace the film – in Spanish or English. Arty Chick found Gloria’s story to ultimately be a hopeful one; I found it sad. To each her own! Your personal lens is likely to dictate whether you enjoy Gloria Bell and/or the Chilean Gloria. If the trailer’s vibe intrigues you, go for it (or wait for the streaming/rental option).
Silly me, I thought acclaimed actor Idris Elba was going to be in this film. But no, he’s behind the camera. Yardie marks Elba’s directorial debut and it comes off as one of those passion projects that isn’t bad, but doesn’t quite hit its mark.
The film is based on Victor Headley’s best-selling book “Yardie” (slang for Jamaican gang members), which centers on the intertwined worlds of the Jamaican narcotics syndicates and the music industry. It takes place in 1973 Kingston and 1983 London, as a boy who witnessed his brother’s murder grows into a young man (Aml Ameen, The Maze Runner) torn between a path of vengeance and one of possible salvation by way of his estranged girlfriend (Shantol Jackson, TV’s Thicker Than Water) and their child. Yardie is a gritty film with some heart and soul. But it’s a bit weak in its construction. Sorry Idris. I still hope to see you as the next Bond! Note: the film has English subtitles. Otherwise, it would be near impossible for anyone without an ear for Jamaican Patois to fully grasp the dialogue.
Arty Chick weighs in: I agree with Mainstream Chick on this one. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. The story is very familiar: rival gangs, the killing and revenge, the redemptive value of a good woman. I love Idris, too, but I still prefer him in front of the camera.
For more perspective and debate about Gloria Bell and Yardie, as well as the kids’ movie Wonder Park, the YA romantic drama Five Feet Apart and the biopic Mapplethorpe, check out this edition of “The Cinema Clash” podcast: