Golda’ Review: Helen Mirren Makes a Commanding Golda Meir in Square but Serviceable Biopic

Helen Mirren Makes a Commanding Golda Meir in Square but Serviceable Biopic

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Directed by Guy Nattiv (\’Skin\’), this historical drama about the Israeli prime minister doesn’t skimp on props and gets everyone smoking all the time.


Golda’ Review: Helen Mirren Makes a Commanding Golda Meir in Square but Serviceable Biopic

Helen Mirren has not played so many historical figures in her historical career. But somehow, when she’s done, she brings not only exemplary acting ability but also a commanding majesty, obviously useful when playing monarchs like Queens Elizabeth I and II, as well as Catherine the Great. That said, I’m definitely not the only viewer who has felt that sometimes her portrayals of, say, Alma Hitchcock (in Hitchcock) or Hedda Hopper (Trumbo) are flattering to the women she portrays because Mirren, in addition to being a great performer, she is and always has been a great beauty. Her Elizabeth I in The Audience and The Queen, both written by The Crown creator Peter Morgan, is the original screen Lilibet: wry, snooty… and half too glamorous, even in a shabby Barbour jacket and veil. The cheekbones will come out. 

 Interestingly, for her latest performance as a grande dame in history, playing Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, Mirren ultimately decided to become utterly frustrated. Literally draped head to toe in latex and bulges, from the center-parted gray wig to the calf implants just above a pair of Meir’s signature “Golda” shoes (laced up that now look retro chic, like something from Rodarte’s recent collection) , Mirren is barely legible. She’s so unrecognizable you wonder if they couldn’t have animated the character with visual effects and had her do the voice. It could be pretty much anyone underneath all that makeup—Judi Dench, Lupita Nyong’o, Timothée Chalamet—not to mention prosthetic makeup artist and hairstylist Karen Hartley Thomas doesn’t deserve high praise for her accomplishment here. . 

That said, Thomas has left Mirren’s eyes minimally made up so that the actor has something to get excited about. The camera here zooms very close to study his eyes: it moistens with pity as it watches a colleague receive the news that his son has been killed in battle, it narrows with sly cunning as he plays Henry Kissinger (Liev Schreiber) as a violin, chiding him to try his housekeeper’s borscht so as not to offend the woman, urging him to give the Israelis more jet planes. Despite being buried in all that flesh and wrinkles, Mirren manages to convey it very effectively with her voice, mimicking Meir’s Midwestern accent, gait, and posture. 

However, the film is not only about her and this is not a biopic as such. Rather, it is a dramatization of events before, during, and immediately after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Directed by Israeli Guy Nattiv, whose powerful film Skin about a reformed neo-Nazi impressed a few years ago, Golda is one of those films about key moments in world events that aims to provide both a potted history lesson and a trivia on prizes. . showcase for its leading actor. Think Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour or Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. The bones of Meir’s biography have been far less edited by the films than those of Churchill or Lincoln, so this leaves Nattiv, Mirren and Golda leeway to construct Meir as a dramatic character, subverting the grandmother image that many Americans still remember. At the same time, showing her fragile and vulnerable as the story unfolds humanizes a figure who has been called the Iron Lady long before Thatcher assumed that label. 

Nicholas Martin’s fact-rich screenplay calls mostly for discussions at the conference table; war rooms with rudimentary radar equipment and old Olivetti typewriters; and testimony given by Meir to a group of judgmental-looking elders who make up the Agranat Commission, charged with investigating whether she should be held responsible for the proportionately large number of deaths in the Yom Kippur War. Dates, places and names of key characters are embroidered on the corner of the screen to help viewers know who is who, which is David “Dado” Elazar (Lior Ashkenazi), the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, and that’s Eli Zeira (Dvir Benedek), the head of the Mossad. Moshe Dayan (Rami Heuberger) is pretty easy to spot if you know how to look for his eye patch. Meir’s assistant and friend Lou Kaddar (Camille Cottin, from Call My Agent) is the only supporting character who manages to have a good rapport with Golda as she clutters on her like a mother hen, cuddling her when she needs it . cigarette from him when she needs it. is about to receive radiation therapy for cancer. 

 In fact, there is so much smoke in this film that it sometimes feels like a specialized fetish entertainment for addicts. Mirren astutely uses Golda’s smoking as a means of illustrating her character. The way in which it leads a strong lighter with Zippo indicates competition and command, and at a certain point a couple of packets of cigarettes and two lighters represent the army divisions while she and her generals discuss tactics on a map. The passage of time is measured in the fullness of the ashtray. Cigarettes are sometimes like weapons in the hands of Golda, via and loaded. They are part of their arsenal and armor, as well as the sweaters of the grandmother and the Victorian shoes. Nattiv and DP Jasper Wolf (Monos; Bodies, Bodies, Bodies) love to position the camera at weird angles or hover over the action like an angel looking down, and at one point a huge cloud of smoke billows up from Golda as lies down. her in bed, completely obscuring her head from view.

She is a dragon lady, literally. The vivid visuals are complemented by Dascha Dauenhauer’s striking score and Niv Adiri’s sound design that blends Noh theater-style percussion with the crackle of shortwave radio conversation. Much of the film shows how Meir and the generals hear the sound of men dying on the battlefield as they play cat and mouse with the Egyptians and Syrians. There’s no blood to be seen, but agony and pain are embedded in the same soundscape.

Golda Movie Details


A lumps-and-all showcase for Mirren and makeup.

Venue: Berlin Film Festival (Berlinale Special)

Cast: Helen Mirren, Camille Cottin, Liev Schreiber, Ellie Piercy, Rami Heuberger,

Lior Ashkenazi, Dominic Mafham, Ed Stoppard, Henry Goodman

Director: Guy Nattiv

Screenwriter: Nicholas Martin

1 hour 40 minutes

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