The Media Times
Sundance: Taymor and Steinem make many artistic detours in a creative, rich biography that has nothing to do with conventions.
By Carol Mueller
January 27, 2020
Filmmaker Julie Taymor has never followed conventional parameters, nor her latest film theme, the feminist icon and the political brand Gloria Steinem. Taymor, who is only once immersed in the biography with the similarly creative “Frida”, knows that life does not run in a straight line, which could prevent her from adapting Steinem’s autobiography for the road trip. But the path to becoming “Gloria Steinem” was winding and the best parts of the wonderfully inventive “The Glorias” are when Taymor leads her various Glorias of the same name on artistic detours. Fortunately, Steinem has a lot to offer.
The feature made it possible to draw a straight line that, despite its imaginative storytelling structure, manages to hit all the great moments in Steinem’s life. As they bend down and switch again – in a moment, Vikanders Gloria eats an ice cream sundae to celebrate how she walks around on a sexist, predatory editor. The next moment she plays Ryan Kiera Armstrong the size of a pin and eats Breyers the box with her family – Taymor and editor Sabine Hoffman’s assemblage is easy to follow and emotionally ingenious.
When she was a child, the Steinems were experienced travelers – Gloria’s father Leo (played by Timothy Hutton) lived according to a maxim that he shared at the beginning of the film: “Travel is the best education.” Gloria never seemed capable (or willing) to be. kick the beetle. “The Glorias” accompanies Vikander alone (through India after graduating from Smith College) and occasionally with her father, looking back on her deep-rooted interim years (then played by Lulu Wilson) in the preparation of the most famous parts of her professional life.
Vikander’s performance is arguably the meatiest, as she portrays Steinem through her early career as a journalist (including a sequence after her research for her turning point article on going undercover as a playboy bunny) and turns to organization and activism. However, it is Moore who looks at the creation of Ms. Magazine and the Women’s Liberation Rally that pulls Steinem through decades of her life before the real Gloria Steinem takes on the role at the end of the film. Even when the different Glorias talk to each other, in actual tension with everyone else, it is Moore’s oldest Gloria who submits to everyone else as each of them moves to become them, the person they always have been.
Psychedelic touches and feverish fantasies don’t always land, sometimes they both work and don’t work within a relatively short period of time. A sequence in which all Glorias put an artless male interviewer into a “Wizard of Oz” storm is somehow both brilliant and silly. Other sequences loaded with similar effects appear unfinished and rushed (before the premiere of Sundance, Taymor said the film was only completed a week ago).
Yet the rare moments when Taymor clings to traditional biopic tropes are still more inappropriate, like when Gloria finds and wears her signature aviator glasses, though (or because) they “hide their pretty faces. ”It’s a story of origins for a notorious accessory, and although the reasons for Gloria’s choice of glasses are convincing, the execution hits the wrong note.
Steinem’s understanding and respect for intersectionality played an important role in her development as a leader, and the film is filled with appearances by a cross-section of other feminist figures who have been important to Steinem and the women’s movement over the years. The supporting actors alone could feature 10 other biographies, including brilliant twists from Bette Midler as Bella Abzug, Janelle Monae as Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Kimberly Guerrero as Wilma Mankiller and scene robbery from Lorraine Toussaint as the wonderfully outrageous Flo Kennedy.
Steinem’s affection for nonviolence and her inclination to listen to others remain inspiring, but Taymor never tries to sanctify them. At some point, an unsettled bog flips out against a racist taxi driver in a scene that both shakes them up and humanizes them. Despite a running time of almost two and a half hours, such moments prove how much more of story is still to be shown and appreciated and how Taymor has skillfully made her way through a rich world and a rich life to bring out enough depths of truths that all of us hold on to and remember Steinem’s unstoppable voice.
Note: B +
“The Glorias” made its debut in the premier area of ??the Sundance Film Festival 2020. Sales are currently being sought.