“The Glorias” – a film review by Gary Chew
Timing is everything. The Glorias couldn’t get a better-scheduled release than now, just a month before an unbelievably crucial presidential election. Hell was breaking loose in America when Gloria Steinem first came on the political scene, although maybe not with as much hell as now. That, of course, is due to almost four years of Trump and the recent passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. In late 2020, American females have had enough . So, they are rightfully and loudly shouting: “I’ve had enough ” whenever they cease chanting “Vote him out!” (Put smiley meme here.)
Whichever gender you claim for yourself. director Julie Taymor (Frida) has come to our rescue. The Glorias is a looking back, re-cap for me; but for heaven’s sake, just think how many will watch this Steinem bio-pic, then score for themselves an illuminating lesson with important information on our history of the late Sixties, and when ratification of the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) died on the vine in the early Seventies.
News footage is judiciously used near the end of this picture. Up until that point, The Glorias is a movie with interesting and curious forays into sort of what I’d call: magical realism. The title of the film hints at it. There are moments when four separate females, riding together on a bus, are talking among themselves about the trajectory of Steinem’s life. All four are her: Julianne Moore, the 40 and over Gloria; Alicia Vikander, the 20 to 40 years Gloria; Lulu Wilson, the teenage Gloria; and Ryan Kira Armstrong as the girl Gloria. (I trust Steinem would not take umbrage at my calling her a “girl” as the script calls for the character to be under the age of 10.) The likeness of Steinem is maintained well among the four; and there’s more authenticity, since Moore and Vikander have nailed Steinem’s distinctive adult voice inflections and speaking patterns.
For those who clearly recall the Sixties, more historical figures are shown: Bette Midler plays Bella Abzug; Margo Moorer is Barbara Jordan; Monica Sanchez does Dolores Huerta; Lorraine Toussaint plays Florynce Kennedy: Janelle Manáe is Dorothy Pittman Hughes and notice Kimberly Guerrero as Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to become Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Should some of these names seem unfamiliar, take a trip to The Google.
Something I felt that was skimmed-over a bit tracking the path Gloria took through the years is… her love life. It’s indicated that Steinem became pregnant with a boy friend when at college; but, neither a peep about who he was, nor even a likeness of him on the screen. A brief phone call covers it all. That she was pregnant once is significant to the career of Ms. Gloria Steinem, since she’s publicly said she didn’t marry her college friend, nor did she give birth… but had an abortion. My sole difficulty with this is that the script gives only a modicum of fact dealing with that part the Steinem bio, while other points are scrupulously related… most of them important. But how much more important are they than men in her life? Becoming a partner to David Bale is briefly related. Unfortunately Mr. Bale died not long after they became a couple. By the way, David Bale is the father of film actor, Christian Bale. He may never refers to Gloria Steinem as his step-mother, but the not so germane connection is there.
My attitude toward the brevity on men in her life makes me wonder even more why the detail about her once being a Playboy Bunny in New York City comes into sharp focus. Could it be to emphasize the fact she was a “babe” back in the day? Or maybe it’s because Gloria suggested Playboy Bunnies should unionize against Hef? (Another smiley would go well here.)
Surprisingly, a long-not-seen-actor pops up in an excellent supporting role. His name(?)… Timothy Hutton. He does Gloria’s father, Leo Steinem. Wow, the script has Father Steinem as a real character, if you get my meaning. No doubt that he was, I’m guessing. It’s a good role for Hutton, who’s not been in front of a camera, to my knowledge, for a while. Glad he’s back and aged well.
An aside I must add to all this is about the character Wilma Mankiller, who was an associate of Gloria’s. As I spent a good deal of time in Tulsa, OK, I was pleased to learn new things about this amazing woman, once the Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Mankiller was born at Tahlequah, OK in the extreme eastern part of the state. One scene has Gloria in that region contacting Wilma. It’s not clear exactly where Steinem is in this scene until the other person she’s chatting with says he bought a Coney Island hot dog in Tulsa. I personally know about those Coney Island hot dogs. Yes, with a dash of mustard, they are terribly scrumptious.
Given the political push of today, The Glorias might add just enough extra emphasis for a rebound to ratify the ERA in the second decade of the 21 st century. The gals certainly couldn’t be more stoked for such a move… including some guys I know.