Gloria Steinem is a feminist icon. She has been working with the women’s movement since before most of the people reading this review were born. Her efforts have left an indelible mark on the sociopolitical landscape of America. One of my absolute favorite directors, Julie Taymor, tackles Steinem’s life story on screen in The Glorias. Based on Steinem’s book, My Life on the Road, the film explores Steinem’s life from her childhood until the present day.
Gloria’s mother, Ruth (Enid Graham), used to be a journalist who had to use a male pen-name. Leo (Timothy Hutton), her father, was a traveling jewel salesman who never stayed in one place for too long. She had a strong bond with both of them and inherited some of their best and worst traits. After Gloria’s parents separate, her mother ends up in a mental institution because she was so traumatized by the choices that prevented her from having a career. Gloria goes to Smith college and following that has a two-year fellowship in India.
Many more things happen in The Glorias, but in typical Julie Taymor fashion, the narrative is not linear. It is often interrupted by a splash of animation or the realization of one of Gloria’s dreams. Four actresses play Gloria in different states of her life. When she’s very young, and her parents are still together, Ryan Keira Armstrong portrays her. After her parents separated, when Gloria and her mother live in her grandmother’s childhood home of Toledo, she is Lulu Wilson, one of my favorite young actresses. During her time in India and going into Ms. magazine’s formation, she is played by the always wonderful Alicia Vikander. From the time Ms. magazine had become a resounding success, and Steinem was on the road, speaking for women’s rights, up to the present, the one and only Julianne Moore plays her.
“…explores Steinem’s life from her childhood until the present day.”
The cast already mentioned is impressive, but there’s more to go round: Janelle Monae is Dorothy Pitman Hughes; Bette Midler is Bela Abzug; Lorraine Toussaint is Flo Kennedy; Kimberly Guerrero is Wilma Mankiller; and Monica Sanchez is Dolores Huerta. The supporting cast is superb.
Another thing that I love about The Glorias is that because we’re talking about Julie Taymor, there are some unexpected twists to the typical biopic formula. All you have to do is watch her film Frida (which documented the life of artist Frida Kahlo with Selma Hayek in the lead role) to know that. In the instance of The Glorias, since the book it’s based on has a road theme, Taymor shows all the different Glorias riding on the bus, sometimes alone, and sometimes together, even in conversation.
I loved this movie. I found it exceptionally moving, especially showing how the world has changed for women throughout Steinem’s life thus far. By the end, I was unexpectedly weeping. I felt as if I knew Steinem by the end of it, and as though there might be some hope in this current hellscape in which we live. It is the exact kind of movie we need in times such as these. So I implore you to watch The Glorias unless you hate Gloria Steinem, to which I say that sounds like a personal problem. I can’t wait to watch the film again.
"…there might be some hope in this current hellscape in which we live."