Gloria Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1999


You're so tough.
It's all an act, kid.

Gloria logo

"Gloria" is the latest film to endure remake-fever, following in the footsteps of the numerous remakes seen in the past year, some of which have been decent ("The Parent Trap", "Mighty Joe Young", "City of Angels") and others which were not-so-decent ("Godzilla", "The Faculty", "Great Expectations"). Updating John Cassavetes' 1980 arthouse thriller "Gloria" with Sharon Stone ("The Mighty") in the title role certainly raised a number of eyebrows in Tinseltown, and sent a number of Cassavetes' loyal followers into an uproar. However, unlike the color photocopy that Gus Van Sant made with "Psycho", director Sidney Lumet acquits himself nicely with the material, creating an entertaining film that distinguishes itself by placing more emphasis on the touching relationship between its two principal characters.

Take the disk, Nicky... this disk will save your life.

Jean-Luke Figueroa and Sharon Stone

Gloria (Stone) is a not-so-smart but sassy gangster moll who has just been paroled from a Florida prison, after taking the fall for a crime committed by her no-good gangster boyfriend Kevin (Jeremy Northam of "Emma"). Clad in the same skin-tight black dress that she wore when she entered the prison three years prior, she flies back to New York to collect on an outstanding debt from Kevin for her prison sentence. Swearing that this will be her last dealing with her ex-boyfriend, she vows to take the money that is owed to her and to start her life anew.

You told me there would be money in a bank account. Where's the money? Where's the bank?

However, upon return to her former stomping grounds, she finds a couple of surprises in store for her. First, Kevin doesn't have her money and doesn't intend to make good on his promises. Second, her heartless ex- is about to kill Nicky Nunez (Jean-Luke Figueroa, in his feature film debut), a cute seven year-old Puerto Rican boy whose entire family was executed by Kevin's hired goons. Unlike the woman she used to be, who would remain content with playing the hand that she was dealt, Gloria decides to take matters into her own hands by rescuing Nicky at gunpoint, a move that puts them both on the run for their lives

Jesus Kevin... what're you doin' now, killing kids?

Complicating matters further, Gloria hates children and doesn't know the first thing about looking after them. With very little money, few friends to rely on, and Kevin's henchman on her tail, Gloria drags Nicky around Manhattan in search of someone that will look after him. Unfortunately, Nicky has no one left in the world to take care of him, and Gloria finds motherhood unexpectedly thrust upon her.

We're in trouble... you gotta help me out... we gotta help each other out.

Gena Rowlands was Gloria in the original

"Gloria" is a tried-and-true premise that has been done a number of times-- take a tough-talking and streetwise protagonist and stick them a cute kid. The result is often by-the-numbers, with the diametrically-opposed characters thrown into a given situation that exudes humor, pathos, and mawkish drama. When maverick indie director Cassavetes made the original "Gloria" in 1980, he punched up an otherwise predictable script with some surprisingly strong performances, especially the frantic energy displayed by Gena Rowlands (Cassavete's wife) in the title role.

Are you alright?
Yes, I'm alright!
You look scared.
I don't get scared... I get pissed off!

Likewise, this latest version of "Gloria" is buoyed by the performances of Stone and Figueroa, who share a remarkable screen chemistry. Stone exudes the energy of a runaway train, and it is a pleasure to watch her character make the transition from selfish moll to selfless mother. A couple of high-strung action set pieces, a chase through the streets of New York and a flea market, further raise the caffeine-quotient of the film. In addition, Lumet handles the quieter scenes between Stone and Figueroa in a very heartfelt manner without being schmaltzy, and it very easy to get caught up in the uncommon bond that these two characters share. And while the histrionics become increasingly weepy-eyed towards the end, the relationship between Stone and Figueroa's characters always remains front and center, making it easy to overlook the plot's shortcomings and trite trappings.

I need a room.
Sixty-five bucks a night.
You wash the sheets?
Every summer.

From moll to mom...

The rest of the cast is balanced out by some effective supporting roles by George C. Scott (as an aging mob boss), Cathy Moriarty (as a high society madam), and Bonnie Bedelia (as Gloria's sister). Unfortunately, the film's villains aren't that interesting, and the performances for these roles are merely functional. Kevin and his crew are lifeless and uninteresting villains in the most generic sense, and other than running after Gloria and Nicky, they don't bring a whole lot to the table.

Kids shouldn't be exposed to you.
What am I, the mumps?

In summary, "Gloria" is a sweet and sentimental drama that manages to entertain despite itself. While director Sidney Lumet may have done better work in the past ("Serpico", "Dog Day Afternoon", "12 Angry Men"), this latest effort was certainly an interesting diversion with the careful handling of the scenes between Stone and Figueroa, and the better pacing compared to Cassavetes' original. While this latest effort may not completely eclipse the original, it is certainly worth a look.

What's wrong with the goddamn kid?!
He's got asthma or somethin'...
Well, make him stop! It's gettin' on my nerves!

Images courtesy of Sony Pictures. All rights reserved.


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