From the very beginning, Gloria strains credulity. Jack Dawn (Buck Henry) is an accountant who works for the mob. He has been keeping a record of certain transactions so that he could inform on the mob to the FBI. He tells the mob about these secret records he has been keeping, but then says that he was just kidding. There is simply no way to make sense of why he would do that. But once he has let the mob know about these secret records, he should have called the police and then the FBI to get in the witness protection program, which is presumably what he was planning on doing anyway. Instead, he gives the book to his son, Phil (John Adams), as if he is doing him a favor.
All right, Jack is stupid, and we will let it go at that. Gloria (Gena Rowlands) lives in an apartment on the same floor, and Jack sends Phil over there with the book. Gloria used to be a mistress of a mobster, so she knows the score. The simplest thing for her to do is to just hand over the book to the mob right away, but inexplicably she does not. She is not willing to go to the police for help, so what does she think she and Phil will do with the book? The reason she says she cannot go to the police for protection is that the mobsters are her friends. But when a car full of mobsters pulls up next to her while she is walking along the street, saying they want to talk to her, she pulls out a gun and shoots all five of them. I guess it is all right to kill your friends, but not to get the police to protect you from them.
When Gloria eventually hands over the book, the mobsters say they still need to kill the kid, to make an example of him. The problem with that is that it is a cliché that the Mafia leaves the women and children alone, primarily because killing family members invites retribution. So, this determination to kill a young child is not believable. After all, they had already made an example of Phil’s family, killing his father, mother, sister, and grandmother.
Gloria decides to take Phil to Pittsburg with her. But then it occurs to her that the Mafia is probably in Pittsburg too. No kidding. The thing for her to do would be to go to some small town no one has ever heard of in another part of the country, like Kerrville, Texas, population just over 20,000. But that never occurs to her.
Finally, just as the plot makes no sense, the dialogue between Gloria and Phil is unnatural. I could feel the heavy hand of John Cassavetes, who directed this movie and wrote the script, making it all up with little regard for realism.