‘The Glorias’ Shows Off Some Good and Some Bad Habits of Biopic Filmmaking

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Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Lulu Wilson, Alicia Vikander, Julianne Moore, Gloria Steinem, and Director Julie Taymor behind the scenes of “The Glorias” (CREDIT: Dan McFadden/LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions)

Starring: Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Lulu Wilson, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Timothy Hutton, Janelle Monáe, Bella Abzug, Lorraine Toussaint, Enid Graham, Kimberly Guerrero, Monica Sanchez, Margo Moorer

Director: Julie Taymor

Running Time: 139 Minutes

Rating: R for Some Language and a Nude Image

Release Date: September 30, 2020 (Amazon Prime Video)

I’m of the mind that biopics – that most staid of movie genres – ought to be a little bit wacky. Or A LOT wacky. And the Julia Taymor-directed The Glorias is undoubtedly wacky. Or maybe, it’s exactly as it should be, and it’s everything else that’s askew. The subject is Gloria Steinem, one of the most famous activists in American history, so I’m sure she can appreciate an approach that breaks the mold. Taymor ditches a strictly chronological approach by having all four of the actors playing Gloria frequently interact with each other. Ryan Kiera Armstrong (young Gloria), Lulu Wilson (teen Gloria), Alicia Vikander (young adult Gloria), and Julianne Moore (older adult Gloria) are all presented as passengers on a ride heading to the promise of Steinem’s life’s work. It’s a journey that’s still ongoing as conversations between the past and present remain passionate and relevant.

Taymor fills The Glorias with occasional flights of fantastical whimsy that reminded me a fair bit of Rocketman, the most exuberant biopic in recent memory. These include a sexist interview that turns into an encounter with all four Glorias as witches, and a moment of frustration leading to Gloria running along a series of seemingly endless M.C. Escher-style roads. These moments are fascinating on their own, but they’re a bit too scattered throughout to really pack as powerful a punch as they possibly could.

The Glorias also has plenty of much more prosaic moments, and that mix of straightforward and roundabout results in a running time that clocks in thickly at nearly two and a half hours. Some of the episodes in the 1970s section, like the founding of Ms. Magazine, were also recently covered more excitingly in the FX on Hulu miniseries Mrs. America. Taymor has bitten off plenty (which is what happens when you try to cover the entire arc of someone who’s lived for nearly 90 years), and she chews as much of it as she can. When she manages to really dig in, it’s a fine fiesta to behold. You just have to deal with the messier edges if you want to find the fun.

The Glorias is Recommended If You Like: Filmmaking that’s plenty ambitious but also a little messy

Grade: 3 out of 5 Marches

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Beautiful Boy’ Captures the Wrenching Agony and Anxiety of Addiction

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CREDIT: Francois Duhamel/Amazon Studios

This review was originally posted on News Cult in October 2018.

Starring: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Kaitlyn Dever, Andre Royo, Timothy Hutton, Jack Dylan Grazer

Director: Felix Van Groeningen

Running Time: 112 Minutes

Rating: R for Unflinching Drug Injection

Release Date: October 12, 2018 (Limited)

Since becoming the sort of moviegoer who sees as many new releases as possible, I have noticed more and more a certain breed of film that portrays anxiety so unflinchingly that I would never recommend watching it to anyone suffering through their own bouts of anxiety. Perhaps this type of film has been around for decades, and the reason I hadn’t taken notice before was because I would have rarely voluntarily watched them while just hanging out at home, trying to have a good time. But I suspect that it is also true that as a culture we have become more comfortable with portraying mental struggles on screen. Whatever the explanation for this trend, it is time to recognize and codify the Overwhelming Anxiety subgenre for the sake of all moviegoers.

Beautiful Boy might just be the apotheosis of the Overwhelming Anxiety film. It is certainly the most painful example that I can remember. It even features a scene with a doctor examining an MRI scan of an addict’s brain, explaining that the anxiety receptors are essentially screaming out in agony. The addict in question is Nic Sheff, whose mere existence became a constant struggle for his family when he started using methamphetamine as a teenager. Timothée Chalamet plays Nic in a constant state of agony; even in the quieter moments when he seems to be getting by okay, he subtly conveys the black hole in his soul that is impossible to fill except with years of hope and patience. Beautiful Boy is primarily about the destruction that addiction levels against the addict’s loved ones, and bearing the brunt of that is Nic’s father David (Steve Carell). Father and son are like two halves of a whole that cannot possibly disconnect, even when a break seems like it must be the healthiest choice. Carell and Chalamet give performances that are wonders to behold, but just make sure you give your brain a quick health check before you attempt to behold them.

Beautiful Boy is Recommended If You Like: Hoping against hope, Great acting about difficult subject matter

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Addiction