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The Movie Guy — Gloria Steinem gets a mediocre biopic

The Glorias

Prime Video

Directed by Julie Taymor

Starring Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Janelle Monáe and Timothy Hutton

2½ Stars

The new Gloria Steinem biography makes the claim that the feminist icon is so notable that it takes four actresses to do justice to her life story. That’s how we get The Glorias, a film that shows us the four different phases of Steinem’s life, with four actresses — five if you include Steinem herself in the film’s final moments.

Apologies to the woman who is synonymous to the birth of second wave feminism, but I don’t think this four-actress approach works because her story becomes so expansive that the film meanders as it tries to connect all the parts of her life.

The film lacks focus, which is a shame because it’s filled with some very good performances by Alicia Vikander (20-something Gloria) and Julianne Moore (middle aged Gloria).

The Glorias is based on Steinem’s 2015 memoir, My Life on the Road, which gives director Julie Taymor the idea of placing all four of the women playing Steinem on a black and white bus as they travel down the road.

This narrative device allows Steinem to speak with all four iterations of herself. It does provide a few nice moments for introspection, but mostly it just comes across as a pretentious attempt to make an art film when Steinem doesn’t need any help making her life story seem interesting.

The rest of the film gives us a series of scenes from her life, the first half of which don’t really add anything notable to the film. Things get better when we catch up with grown up Gloria in India and then writing for New York Magazine.

It proceeds to run through the founding of Ms magazine and the 1977 National Women’s Conference with such speed that events in her later life seem tacked on as an afterthought.

Many of the people in Steinem’s life suffer from the same mistreatment. Bella Abzug appears and disappears before you realize she’s being played by Bette Midler. The same holds true for her husband, who appears out of thin air for the marriage scene and then is completely forgotten.

This might not have been so notable if it weren’t for Hulu’s Mrs. America recent mini-series, which gives us a much deeper look at Steinem and her sisters-in-arms. Granted, that’s a nine-part series so it has a lot more time to work with, but I can’t deny that the mini-series zipped by while The Glorias seems overstuffed and poorly paced as it drags towards its two-and-a-half-hour runtime.

Gloria Steinem is such a fascinating woman that her life deserves a much better movie that this.

The Glorias is available to stream on Prime Video.

 

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Port Arthur Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@sbgtv.com.