BootLeg Betty

Reviews: The Four Glorias


Paper City
The Four Glorias
BY JANE HOWZE
02.06.20


Bette Midler on the cover of Gloria's Ms Magazine
Bette Midler on the cover of Gloria’s Ms Magazine

The Glorias is a drama about feminist icon Gloria Steinem based on her best-selling autobiography, My Life on the Road. Directed by Julie Taymor of the original The Lion King, four different actresses play Gloria, representing different times in her life, most prominently Julianne Moore, who plays her during her mid years and who looked uncannily like Steinem.

Alicia Vikander portrays Steinem from ages 20 to 40. The cast includes Timothy Hutton as Steinem’s father, Bette Midler in an outstanding turn as Congresswoman Bella Abzug, Janelle Monae as Dorothy Pitman Hughes and Lorraine Toussaint as the fun and outrageous Flo Kennedy.

Steinem has been one of my idols ever since I heard her speak while I was in college. I was looking forward to this film and indeed, parts of it brought me to tears. Unfortunately, The Glorias is uneven in its attempt to tell Steinman’s story.

Let’s start with the basics. First, at two hours and 27 minutes, it is much too long. Second, Taymor tries to bring a little bit of Broadway to the film by having animated sequences, dreams and the various Glorias talking to each other repeatedly as they ride a bus. Yes, we know the bus symbolizes Steinem’s itinerant childhood, but showing it once would have been enough.

Steinem’s story is so inspiring that it doesn’t need the Broadway bling that Taymor adds. At its best the film is a tribute and celebration of the women’s movement for equality. Steinem literally changed the way companies look at female employees, and the way women look at themselves. It is inspiring — especially for movie-goers who did not come of age with Steinem — to learn about her childhood influences and ascent to be a spokesperson and founder of the modern women’s movement for equality

The film ends with Steinem speaking at the 2017 Women’s March in Washington. You could hear sniffles throughout the theater as the audience felt Steinem’s profound impact.

Interestingly, many viewers were loath to criticize the film, especially the showings where Steinem was at the Q&A. She is still a revered icon. There were lots of discussions that begin with comments like “I remember when I could not get a loan without my husband’s signature, even though I was the breadwinner.”

Some critics didn’t feel the same love. Negotiations are still underway for the acquisition of the film, and it will undoubtedly be tightened up and edited. Even with its weaknesses, The Glorias is a film that everyone, especially young men and women, should see.

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