Friday, January 31, 2020

Sundance with Abe: The Glorias

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the seventh time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can, as well as video reviews uploaded to YouTube.

The Glorias
Directed by Julie Taymor

Biopics are often made about people after they have accomplished monumental things or died a premature death in the process of trying to achieve change. There are many different recipes and formulas for how to create a cinematic portrait of a person’s life, with the option to focus on its sum total or just a small time period that was particularly influential. The notion is to capture the entire person and what they represented, or, in the case of someone still living and working, what has most defined them up until this point.

Gloria Steinem (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) grows up looking up to her entertainer father (Timothy Hutton), who is always on the road while she is at home taking care of her ailing mother. As she becomes a teenager (Lulu Wilson) and a young adult (Alicia Vikander), Gloria finds that being a female writer takes considerable extra effort. Inspired by her time abroad in India and the many proud female figures she encounters throughout her life, Gloria becomes a leader in a movement for change, to acknowledge women’s rights and see them put into action. Her causes are not all her own, as she hears the struggles of others and seeks to use her platform - and her very successful magazine - to boost their message.

The film’s title refers to the many identities Gloria has had over the course of her life, and casting four actresses to portray her proves to be an effective decision. Her younger selves embody curiosity and intelligence, while her older forms are less optimistic about the world but determined to see some of what they don’t like repaired. One device director Julie Taymor uses to tie the film together is that of a bus traveling on a seemingly endless highway, with all actresses aboard and conversing with each other about a crucial moment or decision. It doesn’t feel natural but serves to give some insight into Gloria’s growth and passion.

There are a few moments where reality is abandoned altogether and this film takes a wild dive into special effects and visual interpretations of the rage and injustice felt by its protagonist. Those don’t work terribly well, jarring the audience out of an otherwise perfectly decent narrative film. Gloria’s identities are well cast with four talented actresses, and contributions in the supporting cast are most felt by Janelle Monae and Lorraine Toussaint as fellow activists. This film finishes powerfully, capping a 139-minute saga that can’t possibly cover everything about its formidable main character but presents a stirring summary.


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