In the late 90’s, I had the esteemed pleasure to work alongside Tony Winner and Oscar Nominee Julie Taymor. Julie was impressive as she made sure her vision was never comprised and was without question one of the strongest, most resilient human beings I had ever met. So, it suffices to say, when I heard she was writing and directing a film on famed MS Magazine founder and feminist Gloria Steinem, I knew I had to be in attendance.
Based on Steinem’s 2015 memoir ‘My Life on the Road,’ Taymor used her signature style against the backdrop of a lonely Greyhound bus on an open highway, with various incarnations/generations of Glorias tracing Steinem’s journey, life, legacy as a journalist and feminist who pioneered the American feminist movement. We’re taken on a road trip through Steinem’s travels in India to the founding of MS magazine in New York and her role in the rise of the women’s rights movement of the 1960s ratifying ERA (Equal Rights Amendment).
What I mostly love about this film is the spotlight shone on her journalist Mom and idealistic Dad, who set the tone for morals and non-tolerance of racial and gender inequality that would permeate her lifetime. Those scenes where men reduced her existence on this planet to being married was in sharp contrast to women being inspired by her vigor and tenacity. A quality I respect and admire. It goes without saying that remarkable performances turned in by Julianne Moore (Gloria Steinem)and Alicia Vikander (Young Gloria Steinem) steer an engaging cast with strong supporting turns from Janelle Monáe (Dorothy Pittman Hughes), Bette Midler (Bella Abzug) and Lorraine Toussaint (Flo Kennedy).
True to form, Julie Taymor makes her own rules exploring the importance of forging your own path and embracing the challenge of the open road. An ideology shared by her cinematic counterpart. At the Q&A, which followed the Sundance World Premiere, Taymor sums it up best. “Feminism is humanism….when I think about the word icon I think about something that is wooden and stoic. Gloria Steinem is not that. She is the most living being there is.”