Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Gloria

By Steve Davis

FEBRUARY 1, 1999: 

D: Sidney Lumet; with Sharon Stone, Jeremy Northam, Jean-Luke Figueroa, George C. Scott, Mike Starr, Cathy Moriarty, Bonnie Bedelia. (R, 108 min.)

Sharon Stone looks like a hooker by way of drag queen in the ill-advised remake Gloria: You can't take your eyes off her, but for all the wrong reasons. Dolled up in oversized sunglasses, stiletto heels, and a faux Versace dress, she's interesting in an absurd, desperate way, like Joan Crawford in one of her films from the early 1950s. (Relish the thought of Stone in an updated Queen Bee or reworked Torch Song!) But even the spectacle of Stone, in all of her tough-broad glory, can't salvage Gloria. This dispirited production is lacking in a multitude of respects: The screenplay is ridiculous; the direction is listless; and the characters are little more than a chance for actors to demonstrate a questionable talent for New Yorkese dialects. The premise here is the same as in John Cassavetes' 1982 film of the same name -- a gangster's moll is on the lam, with an orphaned boy in tow -- and the film, like its predecessor, is little more than a vehicle for its blonde, brassy star. (Gena Rowlands' turn as the title character was less histrionic and more assured than Stone's performance, although nowhere as perversely amusing.) In contrast to the original, however, the heart-of-gold stuff is laid on thick in the remake; Gloria starts off strutting her stuff, waving around guns, and driving through barricades, only to end up blathering like a baby upon discovering that she has maternal instincts. The emotion that Gloria feels for her charge, however, isn't so much like love as it is a compulsion to be needed by someone who's more helpless than she is. It's what every ex-prostitute who has served time in the slammer desires: respectability in the form of a seven-year-old kid. The relationship between Gloria and little Nicky (played with a dead-eyed earnestness by Figueroa) is negligible, despite the script's protestations to the contrary, because you never see her as anything but a caricature, all hair and foul mouth. At one time, director Sidney Lumet was a master at eliciting performances from his actors that often transcended the material. Here, as in most of the films he's made in the past decade or so, the actors are as bogged down as the rest of the movie. While the somewhat indefatigable Stone may survive this misfire (she's survived plenty of others), Lumet may not. If Gloria is any indication of whether he's still got what it takes, the verdict is a sad one.
1.0 stars


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