Lorraine Toussaint plays Flo Kennedy (left), and Julianne Moore is one of the four actors who play Gloria Steinem in “The Glorias.” (Roadside Attractions)

Lorraine Toussaint plays Flo Kennedy (left), and Julianne Moore is one of the four actors who play Gloria Steinem in “The Glorias.” (Roadside Attractions)

‘The Glorias’ takes an offbeat look at a feminist icon

Four different actors play Gloria Steinem; too bad they didn’t just stick with the best of them, Julianne Moore.

  • Thursday, October 1, 2020 1:30am
  • Life

The offbeat biographical tribute “The Glorias” is about Gloria Steinem and, as the title hints, we get multiple versions of her.

One appears to be about 9. One is closer to 14. One is around 30 and played by Alicia Vikander, with a wobbly accent and aviator glasses that overwhelm her performance. And another, the most interesting one, takes Steinem from about 40 to the present. She’s played by Julianne Moore, and the movie could use a lot more of her.

The script by director Julie Taymor and co-writer Sarah Ruhl skips around in time, peeking in on vignettes from throughout the icon’s life. Those color scenes are united by a black-and-white framing device: On a bus trip, the four Glorias meet and discuss her life, as if trying to help each other figure out who Steinem is while the movie helps us do the same.

It’s initially off-putting but it’s as good a way as any for a movie to acknowledge that it’s impossible to cram a big life into a couple of hours and, at the conclusion, it pays off in a very satisfying way.

Still, and maybe this is just because I’ve been watching two 30-something women brilliantly play adolescents in “PEN15,” I kind of wish Moore had played Steinem at all ages. That surreal touch might fit better with the bus scenes and make the biographical bits feel less stodgy. Moore’s Steinem is direct, funny, compassionate and collaborative and the movie is at its best when she and other women are, for instance, brainstorming a magazine that will become Ms., or figuring out how to get the Democratic Party to make women’s rights part of its platform.

In those scenes, I wondered if the movie’s title might refer not just to the four Steinems who are depicted but also to Steinem’s fellow activists: Flo Kennedy (Lorraine Toussaint), who proposes the magazine; Dolores Huerta (Monica Sanchez), who forces Steinem to realize that not all feminists want the same things; and an unnamed woman at the March on Washington who reminds Steinem — and us — that the Women’s Movement owes its beginnings to Black trailblazers such as Fannie Lou Hamer.

“The Glorias” isn’t the most nuanced portrait of Steinem. If she ever told a mean joke or disrespected her mother, we don’t find out in this admiring film. What we do get, though, is the context for Steinem’s achievements: how her precarious childhood gave her resolve, how experiencing sexism hands-on (literally) made her a fighter and how working with dozens of other women (many of them also depicted in Hulu’s recent “Mrs. America” series) helped her see herself as part of something bigger.

That hits home when Steinem, already a famous journalist and activist, grabs a notepad to record minutes at a minor caucus meeting, or when she takes a back seat to more gifted orators. (Margo Moorer only has one scene as Rep. Barbara Jordan, but she is titanic.)

As the movie ends, Taymor floods the screen with images of real women throughout history, which could mean that anyone who fights for a better, fairer world is a Gloria. Maybe we all are Glorias.

“The Glorias” (3 stars)

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem is portrayed at four different stages of her life by four different actors — the strongest of which is Julianne Moore, and the film would have been better if it had stuck with her. Still, it’s a worthy tribute to a woman who fought for a better world.

Rating: R, for language

Streaming: Amazon Prime Video

Talk to us

More in Life

TikToker Brett Kelly, 24, whose Pumpkin man character TikTok video will be aired on the CBS show The Greatest #AtHome Videos on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The TikTok ‘Pumpkin Man’ of Lake Stevens dances to TV fame

After his pandemic layoff from Macy’s, Brett Kelly, 24, has been adding to his 1.4 million followers.

The Black Tones are one of three headliners of this year's Fisherman's Village Music Festival broadcast on YouTube and at www.thefishermansvillage.com. Catch the band's performance on Oct. 31. (Kendall Lawren Rock)
Fisherman’s Village festival returns as streaming video series

Long delayed by the pandemic, the spotlight for local music is being broadcast in four episodes this week.

The five telltale signs of a ‘hortaholic’

It may be an addiction, but it’s the good kind that enriches your life.

This silver-plated serving piece is called a box but it doesn't look like one. It held English biscuits, but if the sides opened, the cookies inside would fall down. Each of the shell-shaped bowls had a hinged, pierced flap that kept the heat and the biscuits in place when the sides were opened and became flat bowls to serve the cookies. The flaps are often missing when the biscuit box is sold.-
These British ‘biscuit boxes’ are cookie jars by any other name

And fancy silver ones can sell for as much as $256 at antiques auctions.

Vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea’
Great Plant Pick: Vitis vinifera “Purpurea”

It’s a common wine grape, but in the Puget Sound region, it’s grown for its beauty — the fruit won’t ripen in our climate.

Pandemic psychology and fear of contagion or psychological fears of disease or virus infections with 3D illustration elements.
Pandemic pains: Sleepless nights, hair loss and cracked teeth

Chronic stress from the months-long COVID-19 pandemic is a common thread among many of these conditions.

An expert’s top 3 tips to effectively train for virtual races

When COVID-19 struck, many races were canceled to limit crowds. Virtual races are becoming a popular alternative.

Beer-brined BBQ chicken with mustard and miso mayonnaise sauce. (Sam Folan)
Feel like a chef in your own kitchen with ‘Home Cookery Year’

The cookbook is divided by seasons and includes midweek suppers, recipes on a budget and payday cooking.

Curried beef stew is a warm, hearty dish when the weather turns cool. (Gretchen McKay/Post-Gazette/TNS)
Chase away the chill with this Dutch oven curried beef stew

It gets an Asian kick from curry powder and fresh ginger, and umami from a few splashes of fish and soy sauces.

Most Read