The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
I had been dying to see The Glorias since the trailer was released. Two of my favorite actors, Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander, play the feminist icon Gloria Steinem. I was excited to see what they brought to the table. I was also excited to learn more about Steinem’s life.
Director Julie Taymor does her absolute best to stuff the entirety of Steinem’s monstrous life into two and a half hours. As you can imagine, this is quite the task. Taymor utilizes some interesting techniques to achieve this. Throughout the movie, the four “Glorias,” ranging in ages from childhood to late sixties, ride on a Greyhound bus together and frequently break out into conversation about important milestones they have accomplished. The bus scenes are black and white to help differentiate them from the rest of the film. This was an interesting concept and one I had not seen before in a movie. However, Taymor does go fully “Taymor mode” at times. We cruise through the first hour with no issues, but then we experience an interview with a younger Steinem played by Alicia Vikander. The interview is rife with rude and sexist questions, and then we are greeted with a scene wherein all four of the Steinem’s in the movie confront the interviewer in an odd riff off The Wizard of Oz. There are one or two scenes like this one sprinkled throughout the movie as if Taymor desperately wanted to inject some uniqueness into the film and thought this was the best method to do it. My biggest qualm here is the inconsistency. Ninety-five percent of the movie has the tone of the standard biopic formula. The odd interview scene felt like we took a detour into a drug fueled daydream that was never revisited at any point in the rest of the film.
The plot is wonderful because it is quite literally Gloria Steinem’s life in a nutshell. We begin in childhood with the youngest Gloria (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) and see her nomadic life. Her mother is unwell and her father is a travelling salesman who seems to have a penchant for taking risks and constantly avoiding settling down, to the detriment of his wife and two daughters. We then move on to teenage Gloria (Lulu Wilson) who struggles to take care of her mother. Young adult Gloria (Alicia Vikander) takes over for most of the movie as we see her entrance into journalism and the beginning of her involvement with the women’s movement. And we end with older Gloria (Julianne Moore) who has lived a thousand lives and has been in the thick of a variety of political movements and moments. Taymor chooses to flit between the four stories at will, and while it is rather a large bit of time jumping, it works out. However, The Glorias struggles with something that almost all biopics struggle with. Steinem’s entire life span simply cannot fit into a two and a half hour movie. In the rush to include everything, we lose the impact of the big moments and we only get to scrape the surface of Steinem’s incredible and noteworthy life. The movie might have worked better if the plot had focused on one era of her life, as there would’ve been time to breathe and dissect what makes Gloria, Gloria.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
If you’re going to tell a story about a living legend, you will probably want to cast two Oscar winners to play her. Luckily, The Glorias does just that. Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander are impeccable as Gloria Steinem. They both have the voice and mannerisms down expertly. It’s especially hard to do time jumps with different actors in biopics because it’s sometimes not quite believable that it’s the “same” person. That isn’t an issue in The Glorias. Moore picks up right where Vikander leaves off and vice versa. They both have the Steinem swagger that leaves no doubt that she was out there in the trenches fighting for a majority of civil rights and political movements. Moore and Vikander were helped immensely by the supporting cast. Janelle Monáe’s portrayal of Dorothy Pitman Hughes was much too short. It’s a shame she wasn’t on screen more. In fact, I felt that way with a few characters. Bette Midler steals scenes as Bella Abzug and Lorraine Toussaint is a powerhouse as Flo Kennedy. There’s hardly enough time with them before we are whisked off to the next scene. But regardless, the acting was enjoyable, and Vikander and Moore performed admirably as Steinem.
'The Glorias' Was A Wild Ride That Spanned Steinem’s Whole Life
The Glorias (2020)
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
There aren’t too many visual effects in The Glorias, so nothing very unique to report on here. The movie is so plot heavy it didn’t have much room to add in visual effects. The make-up was minimal, but the transition from Vikander to Moore was helped by hair styling and the signature Steinem sunglasses.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The music, score, and sound design all worked well within the movie. But with Steinem being so prominent for so many decades, I thought more of the music would be recognizable. It might have helped to further differentiate the decades if more music of each era had been utilized. The score was your standard biopic fare with nothing too groundbreaking. Overall, the music had minimal impact on the movie itself.
The Glorias was a wild ride that spanned Steinem’s whole life (she is now in her eighties for reference). For such an important and prolific person, I wish the enormity of her efforts had been showcased more impactfully in movie form. The Glorias is a timely release that gallantly attempts to examine Gloria Steinem’s life and winds up falling a bit short. But when you look at the incredible life of Steinem, I don’t think that any movie could really do her justice.
THE GLORIAS is NOW available for purchase on Digital and Streaming exclusively on Prime Video