August 23rd, 2023
STARRING: HELEN MIRREN, LIEV SCHREIBER, CAMILLE COTTIN, HENRY GOODMAN
DIRECTED BY: GUY NATTIV
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
I’m more often than not intrigued with a biopic that highlights a person I know very little about. Oscar winner Guy Nattiv’s newest film Golda is about the former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, a figure I knew nothing about, or at least not enough for me to feel educated on her life. Although the production value is strong and it is spearheaded by an almost unrecognizable Helen Mirren, what it amounts to is a biopic with little depth and only surface information. There’s smoking and the struggle of decision-making during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, but Golda leaves viewers in the clouds, never understanding nor inspecting what made her a great leader.
From the jump the screenplay by Nicholas Martin is missing an energy, failing to give viewers an understanding of exactly what was happening in 1973. We meet Golda (Mirren) walking into an inquiry about the events that took place during the war, a fight between Israel and the Arab states of Egypt and Syria. It was an endless stream of fighting, taking place in the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights, with lives being lost, and an often upset Meir struggling to find a solution. What the narrative structure becomes is a back-and-forth between the inquiry and Meir’s state of mind during the 17 days of war. It’s a fly-on-the-wall approach, with those surrounding her in her cabinet, conversations with her aide (played by Camille Cottin), and intense conversations with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (played by a perfectly cast Liev Schreiber). It’s all dry and bland like a CSPAN special.
What is also evident is that this is a woman who loved to smoke and Nattiv often focuses more on the billows of smoke flying through the air, than actually giving the audience an in-depth study of who Mier was. The other half of the story is about Mier’s struggle with her health, which draws little surprise, in fact, it should almost be assumed. As for Mirren, she is a pro and her performance is undeniably strong. She’s lost under pounds of makeup and puffing every cigarette is her last ever. Without Mirren, the film can’t work at all but sadly it gives her a movie that fails her in many ways.
It’s not that movies based on historical people during a time of war haven’t been done before. Films such as Darkest Hour and recently with Oppenheimer have proved that telling a story that places us in rooms with major figures can be intense and compelling. Golda feels like Nattiv and his team was pleased with getting Mirren to look the part and then when they stepped on set were not exactly sure what movie they wanted to make.
Sadly, Golda never clicks, making for a painful and sluggish film to get through. It’s refreshing to see Mirren taking risks again and the direction of Nattiv nails the period piece stuff. It looks good, the costumes are spot-on, and the makeup is award-worthy. It’s just that everything else is a colossal bore. Golda Meir lives an impressive life but maybe her story was better suited for a documentary. Golda is too much smoke and not enough mirrors.
GOLDA IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS FRIDAY AUGUST 25TH, 2023.
Written by: Leo Brady