Film Review: Seeing Allred (2018)
Directed by: Sophie Sartain and Roberta Grossman
Review by: Belle McIntyre
For everyone who dismisses Gloria Allred as a showboating, publicity-seeking, celebrity lawyer, you are in for a “come to Jesus” moment. She is all of those things and then some. But the bulk of what makes up the total Gloria Allred is so much more interesting, admirable and inspiring and justifies her tactics. It works for her clients and their causes. She wins most of her cases. She is an effective, highly-visible and outspoken crusader for justice against inequality and discrimination and a voice for the voiceless. She introduced Elizabeth Taylor to the idea of working with Mathilda Krim, founder of AmFar to fight aids after the death of Rock Hudson. We all know what a powerful contribution that was to the cause.
This is a well-crafted, engaging, and briskly-paced documentary, which mirrors the energy, passion, and pace of it’s subject, a tiny juggernaut of righteous indignation who bulldozes her way through the testosterone-driven world of litigation. The camera gets up close and personal as it follows her into her extensive closet filled with beautiful suits (many are red), to the hairdresser, who creates her signature look, into her bling-filled jewelry box, and into her sports car as she drives to work. This is a nice touch and gives a sense of the focus which is part and parcel of the creation of the Gloria Allred image.
She reveals details about her early life and formative events which influenced her trajectory, from an abusive and dangerous first husband, single parenthood, her own rape and subsequent pregnancy which resulted in a botched, life-threatening, pre-legal abortion. When she moved to California and began her legal career, it was the right place for her liberal and progressive attitudes. She was an early advocate against sexual discrimination toward women, minorities, and the LGBT community. One of her early high visibility court victories was against a toy store for having segregated aisles for boys and girls toys, as a case of institutionalized sexism.
She represented several women against Bill Cosby, even though there was not a legal option for them at the time due to the statute of limitations. But she gave them a platform in the court of public opinion. And then she lobbied and agitated to have the statute extended and was instrumental to its passage into law. That was a huge victory. She successfully represented the family of Nicole Brown in a civil suit against O.J. Simpson. She has represented some of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers and come up against Donald Trump twice. The first was for a transgender Miss America contestant who he tried to disqualify. More recently, and still current, is the case of Summer Zervos, a former apprentice contestant, for unwanted sexual advances and subsequently harassment.
It is easy to look askance at her press conference-like appearances as grandstanding - with her tearful clients as she comforts and encourages them, occasionally appearing as if she is micro-managing them. However, balancing that with her heartfelt advocacy for Hilary Clinton and her enthusiastic presence at the Women’s March in Washington D.C. where she was alternately mistaken for Barbara Boxer (to her great delight), and fervently embraced by feminists in the crowd who recognized her as herself. She is a galvanizing presence and a force of nature who cannot be bothered or deterred by detractors. She is not running a popularity contest. She is fighting a fight that she fervently believes in. I found it an impressive and inspiring portrait of a seriously amazing woman. It made a convert of me.