Julie Carmen’s shouting in the first 10 minutes is annoying and set an alarming precedent for the rest of the film. I understand that it’s supposed to convey fear and all that, but it’s genuinely irritating. Angry acting is laughable when it’s like this.
The boy, Juan Adames, is annoying too, like a miniature John Travolta circa Saturday Night Fever, all big collars, big hair and big attitude. That he won the Razzie for Worst Supporting Actor and a Stinker award for Worst Performance By A Child in a Leading Role does not surprise me in the slightest. Nor does it surprise me that this is his only film credit. His high pitched squeal doesn’t get any easier on the ears.
Anyway, to the plot. Gloria is left looking after the boy when the mob circle in on his mother and father. In a plot that has all the usual gangster cliches, they go on the lam as she tries to protect him from those who want him dead. Personally I’d have let them have him, if only to save our poor, poor ears from his voice. And our eyes from his performance. He is truly terrible.
Thankfully Gena Rowlands is exceptional as Gloria, the put upon gun moll. She conveys strength yet fragility, a woman forced to do what she can to survive against the odds. It’s a nice twist on the usual gangster narrative. Rather than a man protecting a woman from the mob, by switching characters and genders around it takes on a whole new vibe.
There’s a definite mother/son vibe to Gloria and Phil’s relationship. Although, with that in mind, he does talk to her as if they are a couple. Run, Gloria! The kid’s a psycho! Except the only running she does is directly to him.
As it turns out, both of them have quite a bit of gumption about them. It’s this that sells the film, despite Juan Adames’ awful performance (no, I won’t stop going on about it), as without Gloria at least it’s just a typically breathless gangster film that jumps from scene to scene without taking much time to breathe. There’s nothing original about it either, the same story had already been played out back in 1980, and has been played out more in the years since.
But what we have works. It does its job without going over and above what the characters would be expected to do. Even if you know almost precisely where it’s headed, it doesn’t matter. It’s the journey and all that.
On the other hand I can’t say I’m a massive fan of Cassavetes’ work on the whole. His later works come across as indulgent and designed solely as an ego stroking exercise. It was like that for Husbands which, despite my generous score, still isn’t that great a film. Technically speaking Gloria is a far more coherent, tighter story but thanks to that annoying kid it’s not high on my “must watch it again” list.