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The Glorias – Movie Review

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The Glorias – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy levelFilm

When a filmmaker chooses to depict a person’s entire life in a biopic, the hardest part comes from not turning it into a Wikipedia article. How do you explore someone’s accomplishments, flaws and character in a manageable runtime? With The Glorias, Julie Taymor takes on the life of feminist activist Gloria Steinem by choosing an almost nonlinear approach. We get a sense of how she rose to fame and how each section of her life impacted the decisions she made. Taymor includes many of her expected visual flourishes, but the film is at its strongest when depicting the highlights of Steinem’s history and what directly inspired her to keep fighting for women’s rights.

Steinem is played by four different actresses throughout the film. Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore receive the most screentime, but the child and teenage Glorias (played by Ryan Kiera Armstrong and Lulu Wilson, respectively) are also significant. Taymor manages to go through her early years and entrance into journalism without feeling like we’re given a checklist of events. Part of the reason is the nonlinear structure, which breaks some of the mundanity that might have transpired had the film followed a traditional biopic approach. Taymor keeps the plot moving and allows us to understand Steinem’s motivations. The transitions into flashbacks and flashforwards don’t feel awkward, either.

The Glorias looks into the misogyny of the time period, but mostly examines the women’s rights movement and Steinem’s place within it. Taymor does a good job of replicating the various eras and transporting the viewer back. All of the actresses playing Steinem believably feel like the same person, even though they don’t look too much alike. Vikander and Moore especially bring the needed wit to the role and there are some good scenes when they interact with one another. A common visual image in The Glorias has them riding on a Greyhound bus together and it’s a clever way of moving through the narrative.

At times, Taymor’s directorial style does distract. There’s an entire bizarre sequence paying homage to The Wizard of Oz, which suddenly appears and has little impact on what follows. The third act also isn’t quite as gripping as the first two acts, as we watch conference after conference. These are obviously important events, but one does sense the film dragging a bit and at almost two and a half hours, The Glorias is already a lengthy movie. Thankfully, the film’s message comes through clearly and even if someone is unfamiliar with Gloria Steinem and her life’s work, there’s a grasp of why she is such an important figure in the fight for women’s rights.

The worst thing a biopic can do is feel like you can get this same information from doing a quick Google search. The Glorias doesn’t fall into this trap as Julie Taymor creates a proper film narrative and not merely a series of bullet points. By employing the device of multiple actresses and an unconventional plot structure, this makes the movie come across as a bit more dynamic. By the time the end credits roll, there is the sense we have taken this journey with Gloria Steinem. It’s a long trip, but well worth it to understand the impact she has had on women everywhere. It’s clear Taymor reveres her and that comes through in the finished film.

Stefan Ellison