Journalist, fighter, and feminist Gloria Steinem is an indelible icon known for her world-shaping activism, guidance of the revolutionary women’s movement, and writing that has impacted generations.
In this nontraditional biopic, Julie Taymor crafts a complex tapestry of one of the most inspirational and legendary figures of modern history, based on Steinem’s own memoir: My Life on the Road.
The Glorias (Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Lulu Wilson, Ryan Keira Armstrong) traces Steinem’s influential journey to prominence—from her time in India as a young woman, to the founding of Ms. magazine in New York, to her role in the rise of the women’s rights movement in the 1960s, to the historic 1977 National Women’s Conference and beyond.
The Glorias includes a number of iconic women who made profound contributions to the women’s movement, including Dorothy Pitman Hughes (Janelle Monáe), Flo Kennedy (Lorraine Toussaint), Bella Abzug (Bette Midler), and Wilma Mankiller (Kimberly Guerrero).
Taymor gives us her singular take on that rare genre – the Female Road Picture, one in which the female leads do not die in the end, and where the “narrative” is not driven by romance or a bad marriage, or unrequited love or, for that matter, men. Gloria’s road story is about her “Meetings With Remarkable Women”. And that is a love story in itself.
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“Not only is it not a conventional three-act drama but it spans eighty years of a woman’s life, taking us across the United States on her endless travels, and to India. (A large canvas and no doubt a challenge to get funded.) But, at the same time, I felt the sweep of this extraordinary life had the potential to make a powerful and timely film; entertaining, moving, and hopefully inspirational.”
She adds that Gloria had written a road book, a series of seemingly disconnected moments and events, both political and private, that once reinterpreted into film could connect to make what is even more rare in cinema.
“Her journey encompasses the inspiration, collaboration and comradery that evolved through her encounters with political and social activists Bella Abzug, Flo Kennedy, Dorothy Pittman-Hughs, Wilma Mankiller, and Dolores Huerta among many others.
“Known as the “second wave of feminism” this part of our history has never really been told in cinema. The film combines both dramatic scenes enacted by the superb Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Bette Midler, Janelle Monae and Lorraine Toussaint, to name only a few, but it also is liberally told through interwoven archival footage that in no way could be totally recreated.
“Nor would one want to. The authenticity of the people, places and events, such as the 1963 March on Washington or the 1977 Houston Women’s Conference, had to be presented in their truthful, gritty nature.”
“Many people are familiar with the name and iconic images of Gloria Steinem; the aviator glasses, the blond streaks and miniskirts of the 6o’s, the undercover stint as a playboy bunny, the rise of Ms. Magazine in the seventies, and the profound impact her voice has had on the issues of legal abortion, violence against women, sexual harassment, race and gender inequality, and the ERA, to mention a few.
“But what this movie aims to do is reveal the evolution of this singular and multi faceted woman – from her unconventional and difficult childhood to her journeys in India and across the borders of race and disparate cultures.”
Taymor says that this expansive life story takes us from 1940 until the present, in and out of crises and hard won battles and laws that have changed the shape and nature of women’s lives throughout the world.
“Epic as this sounds, it comes in the package of a woman affectionately called a ‘celestial bartender’, who has made her mark by being a consummate listener and vehicle for other women to move forward. She exemplifies the grass roots organiser, the ultimate facilitator whose lack of hubris and narcissism is a revelation in this time of leaders who exemplify the opposite.”
An example from the film is a scene where Newsweek wants her to be the cover photo as the face of Feminism, and she refuses. Her response was: “A movement is lots and lots of people moving, not one person being photographed, not one white woman, not me. There would be a movement without me”.
Taymor adds: “The emphasis in the film is not on the singular woman but on the multiple Glorias represented in the film. And ultimately for me, The Glorias are not just of the Steinem bloodline but, by the end of the film,
are also in effect, ‘WE THE PEOPLE’.
“What inspired me to do this story, this life, was how it introduced me to all these varied women and girls. Her life is the women in the story. Hopefully those who see the film will want to look up the details of Flo Kennedy or Bella Abzug or Wilma Mankiller. Gloria Steinem is a way into their lives as they made their way into hers.”
Released: September 30th, 2020 – On Digital and Streaming Exclusively on Prime Video
Photo: Julianne Moore (as Gloria Steinem) and Janelle Monáe (as Dorothy Pitman Hughes) in The Glorias
Photo Credit: Dan McFadden
Courtesy of LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions