The resulting film, Gloria, is as riveting as it is frustrating. It features a magnetic lead performance by Sofia Espinoza as Trevi, stylish visuals, and a compelling dramatic conflict, then slightly undermines all three with a conclusion that makes it seem as if Keller doesn't understand what the message of his own movie ought to be, or at least how to express it.
At times, Gloria is a powerful, stunning portrayal of psychological sexual abuse, putting across Andrade's ability to manipulate, coerce, compel, and control with shattering simplicity. Gloria's outspoken rebelliousness proves her own independence, even toward Andrade himself (played in the film by Marco Perez). In her debut performance on Mexican television, she throws out Andrade's carefully-designed choreography and does her own ferocious blend of twisting and gyrating, even removing the host's glasses. Yet, Gloria believes that Andrade is in love with her, and the love she returns back to him is like a ball and chain, blinding her to her own situation and need to free herself from it. Years later, a TV reporter presses her on Andrade's crimes, and Espinosa allows us to see the gears turning as she convinces herself of Andrade's innocence. Keller is also incredible at conveying the ways in which Andrade manipulates. A scene opens with a young girl explaining Andrade's innocence and the truth of their relationship, which is enough of an indication how much Andrade has his hooks in, but Keller then pulls the rug, revealing the girl's speech -- clearly something she believes emotionally -- to be one Andrade has written for her, and has convinced her to rehearse.
Of course, even if Andrade was the true manipulator, and the real criminal, it's still possible that his brainwashing of Trevi could have resulted in a level of complicity when it came to entrapping further young girls into what came to be known as the "Andrade-Trevi clan." It's fair to say that the crucial difference between fault and involvement might have seemed too fine to try and walk, but there are still times when the film lands on a tonal note that feels wrongheaded (especially the one it chooses to end on). The extras on the DVD suggest that Trevi had a complicated relationship with the film: she allowed Keller to interview her for months before screenwriter Sabina Berman actually wrote a draft, before deciding her life rights were not something she wanted to hand over in full to the movie's producers. When Keller returned them to her on good faith, she finally saw and offered some amount of encouragement for the film. It remains unclear how much Trevi feels she assisted in Andrade's predatory behavior, and it feels as if those are the punches that Keller pulled slightly in order to avoid alienating his subject.
Most of the film's issues relate less to the experience of watching Gloria and interpreting what it ought to mean, both as a portrait of Trevi and as a piece of filmmaking. As a drama, Gloria is frequently electrifying. Keller does an incredibly impressive job of condensing nearly 30 years of important events into a single narrative, one which intercuts between the "present" after Trevi is arrested, and the past, in which she meets and becomes involved with Andrade for the first time and slowly rises to pop sensation. Espinosa has so much character, blending earnestness with determination, frustration with heartbreak, passion with terror. Through mannerisms, costume design, and minimal makeup, she conveys the differences in Trevi as she grows older, becomes more jaded, starts to sense that there are truths that others can see about Andrade that she is lying to herself about. She's also astonishing in the film's many concert and performance scenes, including a couple of music videos. She is sexy, energetic, joyous, and sweet -- exactly the things that make a great pop star. The fact that Espinosa performs her own songs is just icing on the cake.
Opposite Espinosa, Perez is also compelling in his deep immorality. While the film may hold back in criticizing Gloria, Keller and Berman have no sympathy for Andrade, and Perez pulls no punches in illustrating how casually cruel and desperately slimy he is. Despite the crowd's obvious enthusiasm following her anarchic TV debut, he takes her home and orders her to clean every room in the house, just for not listening. When Trevi presents him with an ultimatum, that he has to choose her and a proper family life over his cabal of underage girls, he waits to answer until she's on stage, insisting that he'll go for it if she announces she's retiring from music on the spot to help him overcome an imaginary cancer affliction. The only disappointment is how little time this leaves for the movie to flesh out two other key women in the whole story: Mary (Tatiana del Real), Andrade's first wife, who sticks by both Trevi and Andrade even after he divorces her, and Aline (Ximena Romo), who marries Andrade at 15 between his marriages to Mary and Trevi, is thrown out when she is discovered to have kissed another man, and who writes a tell-all book about Andrade's crimes. Mary's emotional state is left unexamined, despite her devotion to Andrade being a huge indication of his ability to manipulate, and Aline seems suspiciously like a villain in the film, despite the strong possibility that her abuse was no different than the others'.
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