Review: 'The Glorias' caught between fantasy and reality

Julie Taymor's take on the life of Gloria Steinem, with four actresses playing the feminist icon, never quite gels

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Extraordinary subject, visionary director, blah movie. 

"The Glorias" is an overly conventional biopic about the life of Gloria Steinem that does its subject a disservice by fitting into the kind of box that the feminist icon never has. 

Julianne Moore as Gloria Steinem in "The Glorias."

Grant it, director Julie Taymor ("Across the Universe," Broadway's "The Lion King") does bring some fanciful, fantastical touches to this timely story of Steinem's fight for women's rights and her impact on the women's movement. But the film doesn't connect in a meaningful way, and those outward touches are a distraction from the story and the importance of Steinem's work. 

Four actresses play Steinem at different points throughout her life, including Oscar winners Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore as the adult Steinem. Along with childhood Steinem (Ryan Kira Armstrong) and the teenage activist-to-be (Lulu Wilson), the multiple Steinems are often seen on a bus together, discussing various facets of their life with one another. It's a showy gimmick that is never more than that, except to say that our entire life is a journey, and every version of yourself is along with you for the ride. 

Vikander plays Steinem through the most significant portion of the film, as she navigates the sexist world of '60s journalism ("you write like a man," she's told by an editor, in what's meant to be a compliment) and launches Ms. magazine as a reaction and a sounding post for the then-burgeoning women's movement. 

It's a noble effort, but Taymor is always wrestling with playing it straight or veering into fantasy, and the struggle between the two styles makes the end product feel stuck in the middle. A full blown rock opera about Steinem's life would have been over-the-top, but justifiably so; at least that concept would have fit Steinem's approach to life, which "The Glorias" unfortunately never does. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama 

'The Glorias'

GRADE: C

Rated R: for some language and brief lewd images

Running time: 139 minutes

On VOD and streaming on Amazon Prime Video