Theater/film director Julie Taymor adapted Gloria Steinem’s memoir My Life On The Road to make this ambitious and overly biopic on one of the US’s leading feminists. Using 4 different actors playing the woman herself (and an appearance by Ms Steinem at the end) the screen was awash with Glorias that Taymor even juxtapositioned talking each other.
Taymor starts her story at childhood with Steinem’s unhappy ex-journalist mother and her failed showman/antiques dealer father roaming the country in a trailer. She demands you focus very closely as all the flashbacks and forwards come fast and furiously. and at times completely muddy the narrative.
Taymor covers the width of Steinem’s very full life but gives us very little depth leaving us to fill in the detail ourselves. In fact her first bad call was in attempting to cram all that Steinem achieved/created/participated etc into one narrative. Plus Taymor has just assumed that we are all so familiar with all the fine particulars of her rise to fame, which it makes tough on us who do not.
Alice Vikander (Gloria pre 40) and Julianne Moore (Gloria post 40) give spirited performances as the highly opinionated Steinem who, once she found her voice, became the chief rabble rouser of the movement . How she and a group of like minded women founded the groundbreaking MS magazine, which against all odd. is one of the highlights of the movie.
So too are the roster of excellent actors playing real life characters . Particularly Bette Midler as Bella Abzug, Janelle Monáe as Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Lorraine Toussaint as Florynce Kennedy,
Kimberly Guerrero as Wilma Mankiller.
Far less successful are Taymor’s lapses into her favorite ‘acid-like’ fantasy scenes which are clumsily squeezed into narrative especially her weird ode to The Wizard of Oz.
Unquestionably Steinem deserves her story to be told on the screen, but in a much better thought out manner than this.
(This Roadhouse Attraction film will be streaming on Amazon Prime)