As a woman, I was so intrigued by this film. There have been other movies made about this feminist leader but this one is written from her perspective and based on her 2015 memoir, My Life on the Road. While as a child of the seventies, I am sure I don’t know nearly enough about this phenomenal voice of women’s rights, I truly wanted to see if this film would present her in a realistic light or if it would gloss over controversies. While I think there are moments that could have had more depth, it does give an insightful view of Gloria’s life and does so from different vantage points, different ages, and perspectives while also highlighting some of the challenges she encountered. It was authentic, entertaining, and emotional while addressing more than just Gloria Steinem’s battle for ERA and equal rights.
The Glorias, a biographical film directed and produced by Julie Taymor, screenplay by Taymor and Sarah Ruhl, stars Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander portraying Steinem from ages 20-40. We also get to meet Gloria as a child (Ryan Kira Armstrong) and as a teen (Lulu Wilson). The film begins with Gloria Steinem’s life as a child, including her parents, Leo Steinem (Timothy Hutton) and Enid Graham as Ruth Steinem. It illustrates that her willingness to travel begins with her father who loved to dance and travel as a way to earn money. After her childhood, it jumps to her travels in India, as she begins her journey in feminism among the women of the villages. It follows her life as a journalist and her connections with other feminist leaders, such as Dorothy Pitman Hughes (Janelle Monae), Florynce Kennedy (Lorraine Toussaint), Bella Abzug (Bette Midler), and Wilma Mankiller (Kimberly Guerrero). It demonstrates her desire to fight for reproductive rights as well as her work on Ms. Magazine. Ultimately, it shows all the stages of her life, including her most recent work.
The story is presented in unique ways. It is not entirely a linear march of facts but utilizes jumps to other points in time, going from Gloria’s childhood to her time in India, going back again. It also uses flash scenes that illuminate Gloria’s emotional thoughts and her dialogue with herself, including all her different ages. One scene has her on a bus as all four stages of her life speak with each other, contemplating her life and the choices that she’s made along the way. Once it digs into a more linear path, as the story goes from India to her time in New York as a journalist and then giving speeches for equal rights, the story gives an entertaining view of her development as a female rights leader and a voice for women. Even if you disagree with her views, she fought for women. And the story does address some of those controversies, her exposé of Bunny life, the times she didn’t speak up but also shows the times she listened to the women around her and her friendships with other leaders. While some of it is glossed over, most of what is shown are detailed from accurate sources.
The acting in the movie is brilliant. Julianne Moore is always a delight, her ability to portray a character of strong convictions part of why the story works. She is able to portray emotion and depth like few actresses but her performance is matched by her younger counterpoint, Alicia Vikander, who is equally charming and talented. Both women, as well as the young girls playing Gloria, portray the character with strength and intelligence. The other actresses, Bette Midler, Janelle Monae, Lorraine Toussaint, and Kimberly Guerrero are also powerful, presenting the leaders of the equal rights movement with skill and charisma. Timothy Hutton is appealing and witty as Gloria’s father while also giving insight into her relationship with him, both his strength and his flaws. What all these actors do well is presenting us with real people in all their beauty and their weaknesses.
As a biographical film based on Gloria Steinem’s own memories, the movie does a wonderful job of presenting her life in an entertaining way, it shows her beliefs and her friendships, some of her relationships, and her path forward as a feminist leader in an authentic way. It shows the dichotomies in the woman, the times she was silent, and the times she fought. It shows how India was the beginning of her journey but also how meeting women already in the fight influenced her as did her time as a journalist. It shows her struggles with public speaking but also her willingness to fight. Even though the film isn’t perfect, it speaks to the heart of who Gloria Steinem was and is her journey.
One of the flaws that pull viewers away from the film is the very unique cut scenes that add to the emotion. The movie begins with one of these time jumps and creates a disjointed quality, especially at the beginning of the film. Some of the scenes are odd and don’t make sense in the overall context of the scene just prior. Some are meant to add to the emotion and do but others just don’t make sense, overlaying the movie with scenes that don’t fit and could easily have been cut to add more depth to the more linear story.
In spite of some of the scenes that fail to make sense, most of the story is beautifully crafted and entertaining. If you are interested in the equal rights movement, in the history of Gloria Steinem, then I highly recommend this movie. It tells the life of Gloria in an entertaining way, highlights the ways in which her travels informed her choices, her path to feminism, and even shows the cycles of the fight for equal rights. I found it insightful and loved the performances of each individual in this movie, especially enjoying the different stages of Gloria at all her ages.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Glorias
THE GLORIAS is available for purchase on Digital and Streaming exclusively on Prime Video starting September 30th.