The Glorias

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
The Glorias Movie Poster Image
Steinem biopic is innovative but slow; mature themes.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 147 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The film is filled with positive messages, but the core one is probably to speak up for yourself and for what you believe in. Every minute is a chance to change the world. If you avoid conflict, conflict will seek you out. Open yourself to new perspectives and experiences.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Gloria Steinem is a feminist icon. She achieved this by having empathy for others, having the courage to speak up and face detractors, working as part of a team to achieve a goal (and taking on menial tasks to support the team), and demonstraing great humility and self-control to put her cause in front of herself. And she isn't just about women's rights: She works for equal rights for all, showing a true commitment to intersectionality. She is also a strong voice when it comes to pay equity and women's reproductive rights. Neither she nor the other people who shape her life are perfect, but ultimately her status as a role model is clear.

Violence

Women recount stories of rape and abuse. Abortion and reproductive rights are discussed at length, including stories of botched illegal abortions. Protestors aggressively pound on windows, hold incendiary signs, and break up a meeting with a false bomb threat. Arguments. In an act of public bullying, Screw magazine attempts to humiliate Steinem by publishing a lewd illustration of her naked with male anatomy

Sex

Women wear Playboy Bunny uniforms that are designed to be sexy; they're instructed in ways to act that will appeal to their male clientele. In professional situations, colleagues and bosses leer/make propositions. A few mentions of women working in the porn industry.

Language

Strong language includes: "bitch," "c--k," and "s--t," plus a couple of uses of "f--k." Words are used to harass and demean.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking. Occasional drinking in celebratory situations.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Glorias is a creative biopic about feminist icon Gloria Steinem. Adapted from her autobiography, My Life on the Road, the film looks at Steinem's defining moments through her travels and her connections with other women, and it includes many of the stings, barbs, and realities she faced along the way. Topics -- including rape, abortion, sexual harassment, sexism, and reproductive rights -- are often mature. There's no sex, but women wear Playboy Bunny uniforms, and viewers will see a cruel magazine illustration of Steinem shown naked with male anatomy (written as "c--k"). Other strong language includes "f--king bitch." Characters drink and -- not surprisingly, given the era -- smoke. Seeing Steinem's life through her own eyes speaks to her humility and her humanity: She's presented as a nuanced, relatable person, not just a fierce, take-no-prisoners activist. Viewers are able to see how she led through true teamwork and how she has always advocated for women's rights from a truly intersectional perspective.

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What's the story?

Journalist/activist Gloria Steinem has lived an exceptional life as an organizer and trailblazer, fighting for the rights of women across the globe. Portraying her life through her own eyes, THE GLORIAS takes viewers on Steinem's journey, showing the moments that shaped her life, her choices, and her impact. Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Lulu Wilson, and Ryan Kiera Armstrong portray her at different stages of her life.

Is it any good?

Gloria Steinem is synonymous with "nontraditional" and "boundary pusher," so an unconventional biopic that challenges our expectations best suits her -- but that doesn’t mean it's worthy of her. In this film by Julie Taymor, a director known for her imaginative productions, we meet four Glorias: a child (Armstrong), a teen (Wilson), a twentysomething (Vikander), and an older version (Moore). They travel through Steinem's life together on a bus, revisiting her (their?) past. It's essentially an extended answer to the age-old interview question: “What advice would you give your younger self?" Since everything is depicted through Steinem's eyes (the movie was adapted from her autobiography, and she served as a consulting producer), all the hurts and self-doubts come through. It's liberating to see that even this trailblazer had to grit her teeth to deal with the onslaught of negativity and attacks that came her way to do what she felt she must to create equality among all humankind. 

Unfortunately, even with its artistic flourishes -- for instance, a sexist talk show interview turns into a scarlet Wizard of Oz tornado -- Taymor’s version of Steinem's story is somewhat stale. Hulu's Mrs. America told Steinem's story with more punch and more clarity. And at 2 1/2 hours long, some tightening would have been advisable. Still, seeing the big picture does offer a more thorough examination of how a legend is created. From the influence of a huckster father, to the impact of living with a mother who gave up her passion to her own emotional detriment, to all the harassment she received over the years from pervy men and scowling women -- and all the people from all over the world Steinem listened to along the way -- the bad and the good created a dynamo who changed the world. And that's certainly worth seeing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes Steinem a role model. How does she use teamwork, self-control, perseverance, and communication to make change? How does she seek to create and serve diverse voices?

  • Talk about your stance on reproductive rights. Why do you feel your point of view is right? Put yourself in the shoes of "the other side": What is their argument? Can you see why they believe it so firmly? What's at stake?

  • How does The Glorias compare to other biopics you’ve seen? To other female-centered road movies? How accurate do you think it is to what actually happened?

  • What drives Steinem to do what she does? Is there anything you feel that passionately about?

  • If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love strong female characters

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