Directed by Sidney Lumet
Cast: Sharon Stone, Jean-Luke Figueroa, Jeremy Northam, Mike Starr, George C. Scott, Bonnie Bedelia, Cathy Moriarty, Sarita Choudhury.
1999 105 minutes
Rated: (for violence and profanity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, January 23, 1999.
One of the most blatantly obvious signs that often-acclaimed director Sidney Lumet's "Gloria," a remake of the 1980 John Cassavetes film, had absolutely no effect on me occurred when I was driving home from the theatre. Suddenly, I realized that since I had stood up from my theatre seat five minutes before, I had not thought once about the film I had just invested nearly two hours of my life in. When a movie is over, aren't we supposed to think about it for a while, and have a conversation about it with the acquaintances we have just watched it with? I thought so, but, for one, I saw this particular picture by myself, and #2, even if I had been with someone there wouldn't have been anything to talk about in the first place.
To be sure, "Gloria" begins with a stirring, rather poignant prologue in which a seven-year-old boy's family is brutally gunned down by mobsters, in search of a disc his father had with incriminating evidence on it. Right before the men broke in, of course, his father gave him the disc to escape with. Eventually, the boy, named Nicky Nunez (Jean-Luke Figueroa), is caught by the mobsters, and taken back to their apartment. Meanwhile, Gloria (Sharon Stone) has just gotten out of prison for a crime she didn't commit and returns to her ex-boyfriend (Jeremy Northam) to recieve the money he promised her for covering up his crime. When he refuses to give it to her, and then hears the group of men talking about killing Nicky, she leaves with him in order to save his life, but not before holding the men at gunpoint, stealing all of their money, and forcing them to strip nude. Gloria is the type of fast-talking, smart-mouthed New Yorker who always seems to get involved with the wrong people, and she never expected to be stuck with a kid, but she has a heart of gold (don't they always in this type of movie) and is only trying to protect the boy, whom she quickly begins to form a close bond with.
The previous incarnation of "Gloria" by Cassavetes and starring the luminous Gena Rowlands, remains unseen by me, but was no doubt superior, even though I can't really imagine how this considerably dull story could be transformed into an entertaining one, regardless of the director or stars. There is no doubt in my mind that director Lumet has stuck closely to the original, but the film itself is simply lifeless, with only an occasional laugh popping up here and there so that it isn't completely unbearable to watch. I liked, for example, a very funny climactic sequence where Gloria is deciding whether to leave the school she has left the boy at, and keeps turning the car around, then driving a little ways, then slamming on the brakes and turning around again. These bright moments, however, appear long and far between, and the majority of the film deals with the budding relationship between Nicky and Gloria, which is both painfully predictable and by-the-numbers. Throughout, my mind was repeatedly asking the question, "who really cares?"
As Gloria, Sharon Stone has adopted an over-the-top Brooklyn accent that honestly doesn't sound realistic at all. In the beginning, in fact, I was amazed at how amateurish Stone's performance was, but as the film progressed she got better. Although not one of her better turns, Stone does have a comic flare that refuses to be ignored. Jean-Luke Figeroa was fine as Nicky and a little more natural than the usual child actors who are so precocious they make you want to gag. All other actors who appeared were considerably wasted, none more than Cathy Moriarty, an entertaining actress in her own right, who is billed fourth and has all of one scene, as Gloria's friend whom she turns to for help.
Sony, the studio that released "Gloria," obviously does not have any faith in the film, and I don't blame them. They declined to screen the picture for critics, which is never a good sign, particularly with the high-profile people involved. Although how much money a movie makes does not determine how good it is (just look at the spectacular "In Dreams," which failed to even make the Top 10 last week), I have a suspicion "Gloria" is going to vanish from theaters faster than "Ishtar," judging from the opening night 7:00 p.m. showing I saw it at, where there were about ten to fifteen people present, counting myself. Although Stone can be an impressive actress (just watch her in 1995's "Casino" or 1996's "Last Dance" if you don't believe me) and Sidney Lumet can be a respectable director, there is no reasoning for why they thought the cliched story of "Gloria" was worth remaking or, for that matter, why Columbia Pictures agreed to finance it when they could have been making a picture that actually looked like it might have an inkling of a chance to be successful.
©1999 by Dustin Putman