There is a line near the end of The Glorias about going in circles – as women, as a society, as a nation. A reminder, underscored in recent days by the death of liberal stalwart RBG and the nomination of a conservative to take her place on the Supreme Court. There’s an inherent, bitter irony in Ruth Bader Ginsburg having helped pave the way for an Amy Coney Barrett to take a seat at the Court and potentially unravel much of what RBG stood for. So perhaps the time is ripe for a movie like The Glorias, imperfect as it may be. The film reflects on the journey of journalist, feminist icon and social political activist Gloria Steinem as she helped build and guide the women’s movement from the 1960s until… well, at the age of 86, she is still alive and very much in the game.
The Glorias is based on Steinem’s autobiography “My Life on the Road” and adapted for the “big screen” (or not-so-big screen thanks to COVID-19) by writer/director Julie Taymor, whose mother Betty wrote a book called “Running Against the Wind: The Struggle of Women in Massachusetts Politics.” So let’s just say you can tell that the subject matter is very close to the filmmaker’s heart. Perhaps too close. By trying to honor and highlight many of the women and issues that launched a movement, the film runs too long and fails to stick with any clear narrative device. Fortunately, the cast is compelling enough to keep you along for the ride even when the road gets bumpy. (I could totally relate when a young “Gloria” asks the older versions of herself, “Are we there yet?”)
The Glorias is called such because it features four actresses playing Gloria Steinem through the years, from childhood (Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Lulu Wilson) through her 20s and 30s (Alicia Vikander) and beyond (Julianne Moore). There’s even a glimpse of present day Gloria, as herself. A strong supporting cast portrays a who’s who of strong women activists including Dorothy Pitman Hughes (Janelle Monáe), Flo Kennedy (Lorraine Toussaint), Bella Abzug (Bette Midler), Wilma Mankiller (Kimberly Guerrero) and Dolores Huerta (Monica Sanchez), the subject of a powerful 2017 documentary called Dolores.
The Glorias explores myriad influences on Steinem’s life – particularly in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s – and the influence she, in turn, had on others. We get a glimpse of her complicated relationship with her parents (played by Timothy Hutton and Enid Graham), the impact of a Smith education, travels to India, various writings (including her infamous Playboy Bunny piece), speaking engagements, media appearances, the co-founding of Ms. Magazine, and the fight for an Equal Rights Amendment. All punctuated, in the end, by footage from the Women’s March on Washington in 2017. You’ve come a long way, baby? Keep those marching boots handy, because right now, it really does feel like we’re walking in circles.
The Glorias is available for purchase on Digital and Streaming exclusively on Prime Video starting September 30th.