A free-spirited woman in her 50s seeks out love at L.A. dance clubs.
Gloria Bell (Julianne Moore) is a divorcee with two grown kids who works an office job at an insurance company. She spends her days working and checking in with her children. At night, she likes to go out dancing and meeting people. At home, a stray cat keeps sneaking its way into her apartment, and her upstairs neighbor is constantly screaming.
One night out dancing she meets Arnold (John Turturro), who is only one year divorced. The two bond, dance, and sleep together. Gloria goes to her waxer, complaining about the cat, but the waxer tells her a mythic biblical tale about how the cats were created to take care of the mice overpopulation on Noah’s arc.
Arnold reaches out to Gloria to ask her on an official date. During the date, he takes a phone call. He admits to Gloria that while he’s divorced, he still financially supports his ex-wife and his two adult daughters – the latter especially who don’t even have jobs and depend on him for everything… they are always making demands of him. His phone is constantly ringing with his daughters calling. He also recently had gastric bypass and lost a significant amount of weight.
He and Gloria continue to date, having fun at Arnold’s paintball course that he runs. But when his daughters call, Arnold continually lies to them about where he is. This hurts Gloria’s feelings, and she pushes him on it, but he says his daughters will be cruel and he wants to protect them from that.
Gloria brings Arnold to her son Peter’s (Michael Cera) birthday party. Peter has been having a hard time since he has a newborn baby and the baby’s mother has left to go find herself, and Gloria has been helping out with the baby. Gloria’s daughter Anne (Caren Pistorius) and ex-husband Dustin (Brad Garrett), along with Dustin’s new wife (Jeanne Tripplehorn) are all also in attendance. Gloria congratulates Anne on her pregnancy, which makes things awkward since Dustin didn’t know. Anne tells them she will be moving to Sweden to be with the baby’s father. Dustin’s wife offers Gloria marijuana, but Gloria says she doesn’t do that. The family goes down memory lane, looking at old photos, and Arnold becomes sullen and a little removed. He gets a phone call from his daughters, again, and leaves without a word. The family looks for Arnold, and Gloria calls him, but he doesn’t answer his phone. Gloria is incredibly embarrassed.
Arnold calls her repeatedly to apologize, but Gloria ignores his calls. He catches her in her parking garage at work, and is completely non-apologetic, asking how he could embarrass her by being cozy with her ex-husband and saying his daughters needed him. Gloria tells him to grow a pair and drives off. Arnold chases after her saying he loves her, but she drives away.
After her crazy neighbor accidentally leaves his marijuana at her door, Gloria smokes it and resumes going out dancing. She brings Anne to the airport and sends her tearfully off to Sweden. But after her co-worker and friend loses her job, and she is told her eyesight is failing and needs prescription eye drops for the rest of her life, she finally answers Arnold’s continued phone calls.
The two take a romantic trip to Las Vegas. Things are going well, but Arnold’s daughters call again, saying their mother has injured herself walking through a glass door and that he needs to come home. Gloria, exhausted, says they should just cancel the trip, but Arnold says he’s not going to. He and Gloria sleep together in the hotel room.
Arnold continues to ignore his daughter’s calls, and the two have a romantic dinner. His phone keeps ringing, and Gloria playfully puts his cellphone into his soup. She suggests they take a romantic, longer trip to Spain. Arnold agrees and excuses himself, presumably to use the restroom… but never returns. Gloria goes back to the room and finds Arnold’s things are gone. She goes on an odyssey, drinking and going through the casinos, making friends, and ends up meeting a man (Sean Astin) and going on a full bender, waking up on a pool chair missing a shoe. She walks back to her hotel and calls her mother (Holland Taylor) who comes to get her and take her home.
Upon returning, she finds the cat once again in her apartment, but this time, she lets it stay and begins feeding it. Arnold continues to call her repeatedly, and she unplugs her phone from the wall. On a day where she is set to attend her friend (Rita Wilson)’s daughter’s wedding, she dresses up and on the way out, tosses Arnold’s paintball gun into the trash. But after having a second thought, she retrieves it. She drives to Arnold’s house and upon seeing him, fires paintballs into his home. When he protests, she blasts him several times in the chest and stomach. As he doubles over, his daughters run out, screaming at Gloria, but she gets into her car and drives off without a word. Once the shock wears off, she begins laughing hysterically.
Gloria makes it to the wedding reception, apologizing for having missed the ceremony. She is asked to dance, but declines, a little dejected. But the song “Gloria” starts playing, and she gives in, getting onto the dance floor and dancing joyously.