THE GLORIAS, based on the incredible life of Gloria Steinem, is just as unconventional a biopic as is its subject. Directed by legendary Broadway director Julie Taymor, the film actually feels as though it could be on stage. It intimately weaves together important vignettes from Steinem’s childhood through today, with four actresses playing her throughout each stage of her life, at times interacting to hammer home key points.
In describing the eventual road of a female to the U.S. Presidency, Gloria compares it to life, “The path up is always a jagged line, not a straight one. Our victory is not a one person marathon, but a relay race.” And I think this quote perfectly encapsulates Gloria’s own journey in shaping her identity and platform throughout her life. As a young girl (Ryan Kiera Armstrong and Lulu Wilson), Gloria struggles to overcome a broken household, constantly moving from place to place due to her father’s job as a traveling salesman.
The film then transitions to following Gloria as a young woman (Alicia Vikander) traveling through India and seeing first-hand the injustices faced by women around the world, as well as the beginning of her fight against sexism in the workplace. Finally, we see Gloria in her forties and beyond (Julianne Moore). This is the Gloria we are most familiar with, from her work with the women’s rights movement to her publication of Ms. Magazine.
Other titans of the women’s rights movement are portrayed in the film, including Bella Abzug (played by the always perfect Bette Midler) and Dorothy Hughes (Janelle Monae). Of course, the film does not have the time to go too in-depth on either of these women, but if you are looking for more detail, I suggest watching the Hulu series MRS. AMERICA, with Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem.
It’s hard to create a format that feels original for a biopic, especially one that spans a life as vast as Steinem’s. However, Taymor does so with ease, creatively zig-zagging through timelines to highlight Steinem’s life and career and show how each experience shaped her legacy. Though at first it might appear weird to have scenes separated by the different Glorias interacting on a bus, I found it insightful… especially when it is revealed where that bus is heading (more on that later).
Admittedly, at several points the film begins to drag and has some cheesy moments. And I won’t begin to try to figure out the weird moment where each version of Gloria turns into the Wicked Witch and flies around in a tornado during an interview with a misogynistic interviewer. But you know what? Cheesy celebrations of Steinem’s accomplishments and that of the heroes of the women’s rights movement are exactly what I need right now.
If I were braver, I would post the selfie I took when THE GLORIAS was over. To put it mildly, I was a sobbing mess seeing the real Gloria Steinem on a bus filled with women heading to the women’s march, with actual footage of her powerful speech closing out the film. I can’t think of a better time than now for this film to be released as it champions equal rights and the women who risked everything to stand for justice. If the final shot is any indication, I hope we have generations of women ready to keep carrying the flame.
My Review: B-
THE GLORIAS is available for purchase on Digital and Streaming exclusively on Prime Video starting September 30th.