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movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Gloria

Starring: Sharon Stone, Jeremy Northam
Director: Sidney Lumet
Rated: R
RunTime: 120 Minutes
Release Date: January 1999
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Cathy Moriarty, Jean-Luke Figueroa, Mike Starr, George C. Scott, Bonnie Bedelia

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

"Gloria" is a lot like "Guys and Dolls," one of the great musicals ever produced on Broadway, a hit that captures the characters andthe vernacular of its thoroughly urban Damon Runyon characters. While the songs are terrific, it's not the sort of musical you'd expect to find in theater revivals simply because treating gangsters as Runyonesque eccentricities and displaying the likes of Adelaide, its frequently jilted moll, is pass‚. So why update "Gloria," the moderately amusing Cassavetes film of some two decades ago, when that story is based as well on the Runyonesque personalities? From the looks of the picture, it's Sidney Lumet's showcase for Sharon Stone, who turned in a terrific performance against type as the cuddly mom of a terminally ill child in the otherwise mundane "The Mighty." The plot is by now so hoary that we go to the show to see another aspect of Stone, whose New York kind of nervousness can remind you of Jane Fonda's performance in Neil Simon's "California Suite" but who simply does not come across like any modern New Yorker you may know. In "Gloria" the tough-talking, impertinent urban woman learns something about herself. She may have always thought, "What's the point" about kids--just as Kevin Kline figured about dogs in "Fierce Creature"--but after she undergoes an oreal with an orphaned tot, her mushy heart says otherwise.

Sharon Stone inhabits the role of Gloria, just out of a three- year term in a Miami prison for taking the rap for her gangster boy friend, Kevin (Jeremy Northam). When one of the mobsters in the gang wipes out most of a Hispanic family to recover a diskette loaded with names of the crime family's beneficiaries, Gloria winds up the unwilling caretaker of the surviving son, six-year-old Nicky (Jean-Luke Figueroa). Realizing that the Irish-American criminals will kill the boy to get the tape, she becomes perplexed for the first time in her life. Never mind her overblown, Hell's-Kitchen-inspired appearance--long curly blond hair which makes her almost unrecognizable, skin-tight dress, spike-heeled shoes and utterly unmaternal attitude. She's vulnerable: stuck with the kid, responsible for keeping him alive. To do so she must negotiate with her ex-boy friend Kevin and especially with the mob's leader, Ruby (George C. Scott), who still carries a torch for the much younger beauty.

To go to the source of this tale, return to 1934, to the first version of Damon Runyon's tale "Little Marker," as a bookie played by Adolphe Menjou is reformed together with his whole New York City gambling colony by the adorable little Shirley Temple. Little Jean-Luke Figueroa as Nicky is in no way as appealing as Ms. Temple, however. He simply does not exude the charm, the personality, the "it" but rather comes across as bland and all-too-accepting of the radical changes taking place in his life. Sharon Stone is a proper mixture of goofiness, durability and disorientation. She retains a Noo Yawk accent more successfully than Jeremy Northam hides his elegant British enunciation, and fleshes out the role of the title figure well enough. But the rest of the cast is simply not up to her achievement. Not even the great George C. Scott as an aging gunman with a soft spot in his heart can win our sympathy, and the plot is too stale to churn up much interest. "Gloria" is a surprisingly uneventful movie, not the sort of drama you'd expect from Lumet who has riveted us in the past with intense, resonant productions like "The Pawnbroker," "Dog Day Afternoon," and "Serpico.

Copyright © 1999 Harvey Karten

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