Directed by: Julie Taymor
Screenplay by: Sarah Ruhl and Julie Taymor, based on My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
Starring: Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Timothy Hutton, Lorraine Toussaint, Janelle Monáe, Bette Midler
‘Timely’ is a phrase I find myself using too often to describe films. The danger is that its use becomes a part of the lexicon rather than being an outlier. If I just gave Samuel L. Jackson’s similar lecture to Jack Ryan about the importance of ducking in a bad situation from “Patriot Games” credence, it is intentional.
In this case, timely as an outlier is a most apropos use to describe Julie Taymor’s vibrant “The Glorias.”
The story is as much about Gloria Steinem’s journey and her life on the road, her desire to use her voice for good in this country as it is about Steinem herself.
The script, written by Taymor and Sarah Ruhl based on Steinem’s book, My Life on the Road, starts on a bus, filmed in black and white. This filter is essential to understand where the film begins – within Steinem’s head, this film is told from her perspective.
After all, why shouldn’t it?
That’s the beauty in the route Taymor took. It gives us the unique opportunity to understand Steneim’s insecurities as told through her younger selves, distinctly played by Ryan Kira Armstrong as the young Steinem, Lulu Wilson, as the teenaged Steinem, and Alicia Vikander as Steinem between 20 years old to 40 years old, and Julianne Moore as the modern Steinem.
As the world surrounding the bus moves, the images outside change to color, while the inside remains black and white. It’s an innovative use of transitions from Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (“Brokeback Mountain,” “Silence,” and “The Irishman”).
The story intertwines her life at various points at which her voice becomes stronger and stronger. There is never defiance, but an attempt to find common ground between disparate people, a homage to her mother Ruth’s (Enid Graham) Native American background.
As the film weaves through different parts of Steinem’s life, her father, Leo, is a central figure. Played by Timothy Hutton as a roaming antique dealer, he has a spritely outlook on life – you never know what will happen tomorrow is a good adage toward the character’s attitude on life, something he continuously imprints on the young Steinem. There’s a scene where father and daughter are apart. Vikander, as Steinem, conveys a dramatic change in her life that dramatically affects him; Hutton’s touching performance that lends to the gravitas of the situation, creating a very emotional moment in the film.
Though the film earns high marks for performances, characterizations, and cinematography, the challenge with “The Glorias” is that it feels too overabundant and runs the course of becoming lost in the use of ‘timely.”
“The Glorias” is a relevant film, as its tale of Steinem’s growth and struggles applies as much to history as it does to the current times we live. Moore, especially is exciting, and Vikander shines.
The film didn’t know when to duck.
“The Glorias” is available for purchase on Digital and Streaming exclusively on Prime Video starting September 30th.
R, 139 minutes, A Roadside Attractions/LD Entertainment Release