Don’t let this first look fool you, Julie Taymor’s upcoming “The Glorias” isn’t your conventional biopic. That’s only fitting, considering its central subject: feminist firebrand and rulebreaker Gloria Steinem, who the film follows throughout many decades of her life, though not always approaching the material with much interest in delivering a linear story (and is all the better for it).
Based on Steinem’s bestselling 2015 book “My Life on the Road,” and adapted by Taymor and first-time scribe Sarah Ruhl, the film imagines four different Glorias (played mostly by Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander), following Steinem through some of her most important travels (mostly on the road, all of them through her extraordinary life). The film’s various Glorias appear in conversation with each other, both literal and figurative, as they travel through “The Glorias” in a large Greyhound bus — again, both literally and figuratively.
The film premiered at Sundance earlier this year, where this writer hailed its inventive storytelling and clever approach to unpacking Steinem’s big life as a “crazy woman.” Taymor, of course, has never operated within conventional parameters. The filmmaker has only dipped into biopics once before, with the similarly creative “Frida,” and she keenly knows that life doesn’t move in a straight line, which could have scared her off from adapting Steinem’s road-trip autobiography. But the road to becoming “Gloria Steinem” was winding, and the best parts of the wonderfully inventive “The Glorias” are when Taymor takes her various Glorias on some artful detours. Steinem, fortunately, has many of them to offer.
The supporting cast alone could outfit 10 other biopics, including brilliant turns by Bette Midler as Bella Abzug, Janelle Monae as Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Kimberly Guerrero as Wilma Mankiller, and scene-stealing work by Lorraine Toussaint as the wonderfully outrageous Flo Kennedy. This first look might make “The Glorias” seem a bit more by the book than the final product, but it at least happily touts the existence and importance of a cadre of supporting stars, who only increase the film’s power.
Roadside Attractions and LD Entertainment will release the film on September 30, when it will be available on both digital platforms and streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime Video. Check out the first trailer for “The Glorias” below.