Golda's Balcony was
a one-woman show in the theater. A single person standing on stage,
doing a huge monologue for the entire running time.
This makes it inherently
hard to translate cinematically. Little things like having the main
character voicing the words of other characters, which can work onstage,
look awkward on film. A person just talking and talking for 95
minutes, no matter how interesting what they say may be, can get taxing to
even the most hard-wired attention span.
Based on the life of the
Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, the 2003 play by William Gibson (he also
wrote The Miracle Worker) became a hit with its strong lead
performance by Tovah Feldshuh. The film version stars television star
Valerie Harper (formerly Rhoda Morgenstern of The Mary Tyler Moore Show),
who also had toured with the production.
Harper, who isn't Jewish
despite the fact that her best known roles always seem to be, does a
wonderful job here. She is obviously in love with the role and
relishes the dialogue she has been given and treats it with the proper
Nearly buried beneath
padding, makeup and a Brillo Pad wig, Harper is at points strong, defeated,
pragmatic, angry, funny and even occasionally sassy (when she ponders on
whether Moshe Dayan takes off the eye patch when making love). She
inhabits one of the most important women of the 20th Century, and Meir has
more than enough fascinating stories to keep things going. You also
get to find out more about the leader as a woman, how her important role
effected (and essentially ruined) her family life.
That said, the decision to
film Harper with computer graphics and green screen special effects swirling
around Golda is distracting, particularly in such an old-fashioned feeling
story. It almost feels like director Jeremy Cagan is trying to turn
the play into a Power Point presentation. Power Point presentations
can work on film -- although the Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient
Truth is the only practical example I could possibly come up with to
support this statement. Eventually the audience does get used to the
busy backgrounds behind the lead, but it takes time and it never feels
Golda's Balcony is a
fascinating attempt, though I do think it would have probably been more
satisfying had they either done a straight videotape of a live performance
of the play or had they taken the time to actually flesh out the story and
change it to a more traditional multi-character drama. What works in
the theater does not always work in the cinema. The movie of
Golda's Balcony is at heart a good play more than a film.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: October 11, 2007.