The Glorias

The Glorias 2

By Joanna Langfield

Why can’t we have a movie about our female icons that’s even half as exhilarating as they are?

The latest, Julie Taymor’s biography of Gloria Steinem, is drawn from the feminist’s recent book, reflecting on her life and love of travel. It’s an uneven affair, bouncing back and forth between four actresses who portray Gloria at different times in her extraordinary life. We meet the small girl, daughter of a hustling dad and frustrated career woman. The teenage years give way to the Gloria many of us have heard about, the curious young woman who spent two years in India, developed as a New York City based journalist, rocked the world with an expose of the Playboy Club and found her calling when she, partnering with a group of savvy women, founded Ms. Magazine. We spend some time in the company of the older Steinem, a woman who still, at the age of 86, is fighting for the social and political change we still, this many years later, haven’t lawfully earned.

This is a great story. The story of all these women pioneers, told here and in a handful of recent films and cable series, are great stories. But somehow, they aren’t making great movies. Why not?

In this case, I can only think the fault lies with what feels to be a disconnect between the director and Alicia Vikander, who plays the young Gloria with a kind of monolithic tone. Taymor, on the other hand, serves up her signature, very theatrical style. Things don’t come together until Julianne Moore steps in as the mature Steinem, bringing just the right touch of quiet sizzle. And when Bette Midler shows up as Bella Abzug, well, her sizzle is anything but quiet.

Yes, I teared up when the real Gloria reminds Pussyhatted protestors the US Constitution stars with “We The People”, not “I The President”. Maybe we should have spent the movie’s meandering 2 hours and 20 minutes just listening to Gloria herself?