THE GLORIAS – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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The good news about The Glorias is that Julie Taymor tries to avoid biopic clichés as she employs four actresses at different ages to tell the story of feminist icon Gloria Steinem’s life. But while indulging in her usual visual panache on screen, the director is almost too ambitious in trying to bring this notable legend to life.

Along the way, all four Glorias in are portrayed together while riding on a bus whose destination will be eventually revealed. Ryan Kiera Armstrong plays Steinem as a young girl but is upstaged early on by her eccentric and transient father played by Timothy Hutton, a guy who calls himself “Steinemite,” who always has a scheme in his back pocket. Lulu Wilson takes on the early teen years, whose lone memorable moment is an impromptu tap dance number with a new friend. She is burdened by her mother who suffers from depression but who in the past did some writing that might have influenced her daughter’s destiny as a journalist.

Eventually, Alicia Vikander takes on Gloria as a young woman who earns a fellowship to travel to India where she is exposed to the demeaning treatment of females in a caste system. Her best scenes come when she infamously went undercover as a Playboy bunny and exposes what the cleavage-bearing, cotton-tailed ladies had to put up with. Julianne Moore eventually takes over at around age 40 as she becomes a trail-blazer for women’s rights and eventually launches Ms. Magazine.

If this all sounds rather choppy, it is, complete with some odd detours into special effects, with Gloria becoming a Wicked Witch spinning in a tornado at one point. But given that two Oscar-winning actresses are sharing the role, they try their best to present a somewhat flawed but courageous fighter for women and bravely tackling such topics as abortion rights and the sexist treatment of females in the work place. Also making an impression are pro-ERA fighters like Bette Midler as Bella Azbug and especially Lorraine Toussaint as Flo Kennedy, who provides much needed fiery rhetoric and a whole lot of personality on screen.

Alas, the streaming series Mrs. America has already provided a more-on-point portrayal of Steinem with Rose Byrne in the role earlier this year. But given that women’s rights to control their bodies are being endangered right now, it isn’t a bad thing to have dueling reminders that the fight that Steinem and her fellow women libbers started is far from over.

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Susan Wloszczyna

Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a senior editor for the online awards site Gold Derby. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.