Indie godfather John Cassavetes transforms Gena Rowlands into his own little Pam Grier in this oddly sweet-and-sour, PG-rated mob melodrama with, naturally, a cute orphan kid. The ingredients ensure that the overall mixture is far from colloidal, but Gloria’s most salient feature is Rowlands’s extraordinarily well-rounded embodiment of the titular role: an extremely classy ex-mob dame with a hair-trigger temper and a tongue of fire. When Mafia accountant Jack Dawn (Buck Henry) accidentally lets it slip to his bosses that he’s been jotting all their dirty little secrets in a little black book, they come by and waste him and his surrogate family, but not before he drops off the little moppet Phil with Gloria Swenson. Whether she’s lackadaisically serving Phil milk or fending off his incessant (and creepy) suggestions that she’s both his mother as well as his girlfriend, Rowlands fills her somewhat sketchy role with blowsy good humor and an honest sense of hollowed-out emotional vacancy that the film around her doesn’t quite merit. It’s no surprise that her supporting cast pales in comparison to her, with the possible exception of a string of NYC taxi cab driver archetypes (one looks and sounds eerily like Pat Ast of Paul Morrissey’s Heat). John Adames, who plays little Phil, had the dubious distinction of splitting the first Razzie award for Worst Supporting Actor with Laurence Olivier (in The Jazz Singer), and one has to assume most of the blame rested on his unique vocal delivery. He manages to perfectly capture what Paddy Chayefsky would sound like impersonating Alvin Chipmunk.
- 121 min
- John Cassavetes
- John Cassavetes
- Gena Rowlands, John Adames, Julie Carmen, Buck Henry
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