She knocks on the neighbors’ door for a cup of sugar, and winds up with one of their kids, Puerto Rican tyke Phil (John Adames) when the rest of the family is gunned down by the mob. She’s a former gangster’s moll, a tough-talking broad, a pistol-packin’ mama, and definitely not the motherly type. She’s Gloria, and she’s played by the great Gena Rowlands, wife and muse of director John Cassavetes, the George Washington of the American independent film movement. Rowlands earned her second Best Actress Oscar nomination for this role. There’s a notebook full of incriminating information about the Mafia, an odd-couple Madonna and child relationship, and a desperate flight from an inescapable fate. Cassavetes wrote the script as a commercial vehicle to raise money for his own projects, but under studio pressure he wound up directing it and casting Rowlands in the title role. The plot has a familiar ring, but the acting, as usual in his films, lifts it into special territory, and the director and star keep things nicely off-balance. — J.R.
Drama, 123 minutes, rated PG, 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, Violet Crown, 3 chiles