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Thursday, 6 July 2017

Retro Review: Gloria (1980)

Cast: Gena Rowlands, Julie Carmen, Buck Henry, John Adames
Genre: Crime Thriller
U.S Box Office Gross: over $4 million

Plot: When a young boy's family is killed by the mob, their tough neighbour Gloria becomes his reluctant guardian. In possession of a book the gangsters want, the pair go on the run in New York 

'Glorious Gloria'

My first John Cassavetes movie, Gloria is an offering where in which I wasn't expecting such an emotional rollercoaster of a ride, which it offers. It is also one that delves deep into the relationship between Gloria and a young Puerto Rican 6-year-old in Phil: Gloria turned out to be an unlikely story involving a grown up adult and a little boy, both of whom realise they need each other, much more than they thought they would. Gloria was also later remade in 1999 with Sharon Stone as the title character, which wasn't too well received by fans of this 1980 original. 

A low-class accountant for a mob in Jackson is soon targeted, with the mafia on his and his family's trail, they are after the book, which ends up in the hands of their son, Phil (who knows information regarding the mob who gunned down his family) & Gloria, right after the mafia assassinate his family. Now orphan Phil then goes on the run with Gloria who has ties to the mafia. Mob boss Tony is under no illusions on what he has to do - and he doesn't care if they get killed, so long as he has that book.

Gloria is a badass: she is tough, sassy, she has a don't-mess-with-me attitude, she shoots the bad guys in a car, they crash.

At first, Gloria hates kids and doesn't want anything to do with them, but soon she finds herself entrust with that responsibility and is compelled to look after Phil and to raise him as if he were her own son. Phil is irritating, talkative, but also vulnerable and endearing also and even though a lot of people will find him annoying and feel annoyed by John Adames precocious cute-looking character and performance, for me anyhow, it was a natural performance and in neither way did it come off as forced or exaggerated. He was 6 years of age, what did the critics who took a disliking to him, expect? Child characters in films and TV shows have a tendency to rub people up the wrong way, but I didn't have a problem with this one. He also holds his own with Gena Rowlands. Phil even manages to confusedly flirt with Gloria, with her resisting. I found this part to be not as disturbing, nor did I perceive it in a sexual sense, but rather nice and innocent to see that interaction and bond developing with those characters. It's also an adult/child relationship that isn't as typically cliched and follows in somewhat unconventional ways, which was later mirrored in films such as Luc Besson's LEON and Man On Fire.

Although Gloria barely engages in open moments of affection, up until the final scene towards the end; for Phil, at first, he does cast some reservations towards her but at the same time, he knows for certain she is the only person he can rely on and trust to keep him alive. Gloria is his protector, but also his mother, sister, grandmother all rolled into one. As well as existing as a type of platonic love. Gena Rowland's character is complex; she isn't one to bend over backwards, but that also she can be very loving when she wants to be. Some people may not like the ending: I thought it was an interesting way to end the film with and seeing it transcend from a crime film towards a paternal or patriarchal mother/child love thing, was very novel.  

With Gloria, it was arguably the first when it came to adult/child crime dramas & Cassavetes infuses it with a paternal instinct bond, as well as warmth and emotional quality that isn't treacly or sappy. At over 2 hours, the story does have a few lull moments, and still the chase scenes and Gloria gaining Phil, losing him and gaining him again, create some level of excitement and intrigue. The cinematography and shots of different parts of New York City give it that somewhat raw inner city extract when Gloria and Phil go on the run.

The film is gritty and hard-hitting in places, but also it is not overly or brimming with violence and there is less foul language; it's a PG-13 gangster based crime movie that young people can take to.

Final Verdict:

By avoiding the comical route and have it operate as a standard serial drama, Cassavetes take on the odd couple theme with the young child and older adult evolves naturally, one step at a time. & with that, Gloria, despite its commercial intentions set out by Cassavetes, is a slice of pure avant-garde magic.

With great performances and it is undeniably one of the best films of 1980, but also from the 1980s as well. 


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