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Review: 'Gloria' stumbles on heels of original

Web posted on:
Tuesday, January 26, 1999 2:59:03 PM EST

From Reviewer Paul Tatara

(CNN) -- Before I review the new Sidney Lumet/Sharon Stone mediocrity, "Gloria," I need to air a grievance. I'd like to know why it is that I can cover over 300 movies in the past two years and only get quoted in an ad on two different occasions, but Larry King is suddenly pulling quotes on a weekly basis! I just saw another one last nignt. Understand, I know that Larry's show is a broadcasting institution, and I enjoy it as much as the next guy. But, legend or not, he's working my side of the street! You don't see me all of a sudden deciding to interview Colin Powell.

The only time in the past year that I was quoted in an ad was for "What Dreams May Come," and the TV blurb was actually credited to "Pat Tatara," rather than the more conventional "Paul." Of course, the producers only cited the two words in my review that looked the most adulatory, making me seem like I fawned over the movie when I really just sort of enjoyed parts of it.

So, with that in mind, I've decided to help out the folks behind "Gloria." At the end of this review, I'll be piecing together a juicy quote that'll look quite accommodating in a newspaper ad. Since I don't normally write highly descriptive phrases like "the feel-good movie of the year," I've decided to meet them halfway. I just need to feel wanted.

Those of you who realize that movies existed before 1988 may recall that the original version of "Gloria" was written and directed by John Cassavetes and featured a gritty, Oscar-nominated performance by Gena Rowlands. It was a bit more watchable than Cassavetes' usual self-conscious shenanigans, but it was really Rowlands who sold the picture to anybody who wanted to look.

Now, Sharon Stone plays Gloria, and the movie has been updated in a couple of ways, one of them being that a notebook full of valuable mob information is now that most obvious of modern-day plot devices: the computer disk that people are willing to kill for.

Lumet gives new take on 'gritty realism'

Lumet, who directs a movie as often as the rest of us buy new socks, is at the helm again, so you know that you'll be getting expertly shot New York City locations, and at least one fat guy who looks like he's named Herb drinking bad coffee out of a paper cup. That's called gritty realism.

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The Gloria played by Stone is a tough-talking, tight clothes-wearing tart whose main squeeze is a college-educated mobster named Kevin (Jeremy Northam). It's been a while since they've been able to mainly squeeze, however, since Gloria selflessly took a rap for Kevin and wound up spending three years in jail for it. (Stone is being released from the big house as the movie opens. You'll be shocked to know that our tax dollars provide Rodeo Drive-quality hair care service for the best looking inmates.)

A major problem with the movie is that we already know Gloria is supposed to end up running from the mob with a young kid in tow. If you've seen the commercials, a poster, or the original version of the movie, you've got the idea. But it takes Lumet forever to set the thing up.

The child (a not overly cute 10-year-old named Jean-Luke Figueroa) has escaped a gangland killing in his apartment. His father, mother, grandmother, and sister have all been executed, but he climbed down the fire escape with the all-important computer disk before the shooting commenced. The mobsters catch him and take him back to their hangout, and Gloria steals him away when she suddenly realizes that Kevin is scum and he's going to kill the little tyke.

Then Gloria and the kid run. And run. And run. And run. The running is periodically interspersed with chatty visits to diners and nights in crummy hotels, but that's pretty much the gist of it. To be fair, the running accentuates Stone's major asset as an actress -- her truly extraordinary legs.

She really is looking more beautiful as she gets older (her classic elegance reminds me of actresses from the 1940s), but her performance here isn't liable to make anybody forget Rowlands. She can pull off nice bits of business with the kid, and she can cry, but her New Yawk accent (another Lumet staple) makes her sound like she's recovering from a stroke. She seems about as street tough as Charlize Theron.

Decent supporting cast

Gloria and the kid, by the way, really start to love each other after a while. Who'da thunk it? I'd say that he owes it to her, though, what with the (not exactly wildly kinetic) car chase, and the dead mobsters and everything. There's a decent supporting cast, including George C. Scott and Cathy Moriarty, neither of whom have been around much lately, and they all do solid work.

The movie wasn't screened in advance for critics, which (considering its big-name star and director) immediately led to speculation that it's a total washout. Well, it's not all that hot, but it's not awful either. It's just redundant as hell, and Stone is way out of her element. She looks like a girl when she shoots a gun, and I mean that as a compliment.

As for that blurb-

"Forget Gena Rowlands! Run ... run ... run ... to see ..."Gloria." Sharon Stone ... steals ... the movie ... with ... a classic performance. Extraordinary!" - Paul Tatara,

Don't forget to spell the name right, guys. My mom will be checking the papers.

"Gloria" is fairly violent, especially the cold-blooded quadruple killing in the apartment. There's some bad language, and I don't mean Stone's accent. 108 minutes. Rated R.

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