“The Glorias,” now on VOD/Digital, is an ambitious retelling of the life of a trailblazer. Women’s-rights icon Gloria Steinem has led such a multi-faceted life it takes four people to play her over the course of the film.
Based on Steinem’s 2015 memoir “My Life on the Road,” the story is told on a broken timeline that uses a bus metaphor to shift through the various aspects of Steinem’s life. From life as a child (played by Ryan Kiera Armstrong) with a transient salesman father whose optimistic motto is, “You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. It could be wonderful,” and former journalist mother Ruth (Enid Graham) to rebellious teen (Lulu Wilson) to magna cum laude graduate and journalist () who went undercover (Alicia Vikander) at Playboy Club to adult activist Gloria (Julianne Moore), the film offers a detailed if somewhat fragmented look at a remarkable life.
To tell the tale director Julie Taymor uses a variety of vibrant colour palettes, newsreel footage, animation, some theatrical techniques—adult Steinem gives advice to her younger self on the aforementioned bus—and biographical notes. Larger than life characters like social activist Bella Abzug (Bette Midler), businessperson and co-founder of Ms. Magazine Dorothy Pitman Hughes (Janelle Monáe) and Lorraine Toussaint as lawyer, feminist, activist Flo Kennedy are brought to vivid life, helping to establish a sense of time and place for a story that hop scotches through time.
“The Glorias” isn’t a standard biopic, but it also isn’t as radical as its subject. It’s an artfully arranged greatest hits package of a remarkable and influential life that dilutes its impact by trying to cover eighty of Steinem’s years. Nonetheless, the four performances fit so neatly together to form a whole that we see Steinem’s growth as she evolves into the person who made history.