Golda - Photo Bleecker Street Media
Golda – Photo Bleecker Street Media

Oscar-winner Helen Mirren (“The Queen”) embodies “Golda.” Her skillful performance as Israel’s steely Prime Minister Golda Meir is startling to behold and a sure Academy Award contender.

Israeli-American filmmaker Guy Nattiv’s docudrama focuses on the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when a coalition of Arab states, led by Egypt and Syria, surprise-attacked Israel on the most holy, contemplative day of the Jewish calendar.

Utilizing a script by Nicholas Martin, Nattiv tells a tension-filled tale – one that was unknown until about 10 years ago, after Top Secret government documents were declassified and 75 year-old Golda Meir’s suppressed anguish, deciding on a plan of action during that pivotal moment in history, was revealed.

Accompanied by her personal assistant, Lou Kaddar (Camille Cottin), chain-smoking Meir was undergoing painful cobalt treatments for cancer while stoically conducting strategic meetings with Defense Minister Moshe Dayan (Rami Heuberger), Mossad leader Zvi Zamir (Rotem Keinan), Military Chief-of-Staff Dado Elazar (Lior Ashkenazi), Intelligence director Eli Zeira (Dvir Benedek) and Ariel Sharon (Ohad Kollner) as war was being waged on two fronts: the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights.

Having spent three and one half hours in the make-up chair each day, Helen Mirren’s meticulous physical transformation is astounding, along with her voice. Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Golda grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and then moved to Denver, Colorado, before immigrating to the land then-known as Palestine, so her American accent is duly authentic.

Matching Mirren in resolute validity, Liev Schreiber is riveting as U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who dispatched jets as reinforcements when the harrowing 19-day conflict seemed lost and arrived in Tel Aviv to negotiate a fragile peace treaty with Meir over a bowl of borsht in her kitchen. 

“I am first an American, second a Secretary-of-State and third a Jew,” guarded Kissinger notes diplomatically. “In this country, we read from right to left,” indomitable Meir counters, demonstrating her wryly defiant wit.

At the movie’s coda, the film presents actual newsreel footage of the real Golda Meir engaging with Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and US President Jimmy Carter at the Peace Accord, accompanied by Leonard Cohen’s song “Who by Fire,” based on a Jewish High Holiday prayer.

In English with some Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles, on the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Golda” is an archival 8, playing in theaters.

Back to the Future - Photo Colin Ingram Limited
Back to the Future – Photo Colin Ingram Limited

Like the original sci-fi comedy classic, the Broadway adaptation “Back to the Future: The Musical” relates how teenage Marty McFly time-travels in a jazzed-up DeLorean DMC from 1985 back to 1955, when his parents first met.

Make no mistake – the plutonium-powered sports car is the star of the show. Everything – and everyone – else pales in comparison, partially because the actors bring little or no originality to their respective characters.

As Marty, Casey Likes (“Almost Famous”) earnestly imitates Michael J. Fox’s vocal inflections, rather than claiming the role as his own, while Roger Bart embodies eccentric Doc Brown with the kind of familiar shtick he used in “The Producers” and “Young Frankenstein,” not even coming close to the zaniness of Christopher Lloyd.

At two hours, 40 minutes, it’s nearly an hour longer than the movie – but the audience seems to relish every rehashed moment, detailing Marty’s quirky chagrin as he realizes how nerdy his dad, George (Hugh Coles), is/was and how overtly flirtatious his mom, Lorraine (Liana Hunt), was – back at Hill Valley High School.

Bob Gale, who wrote the original screenplay with director Robert Zemeckis, once again collaborates with the film’s composer Alan Silvestri, along with songwriter Glen Ballard (“Jagged Little Pill”), on this pop-culture phenomenon which made its theatrical debut in Manchester, England, before transferring to London’s West End, where it won the 2022 Olivier Award as Best New Musical.

According to Gale, his inspiration for the adventurous romp emanated from seeing a photo of his father in an old high-school yearbook, which is why he still regards the characters as manifestations of relationships within his own family.

Working with production designer Tim Hatley, illusionist Chris Fisher and video creator Finn Ross, director John Rando deftly navigates the technical transfer from screen to stage, including the tricky clock tower sequence.

It’s all slick and serviceable, if a bit pointless, since the generic songs – aside from Chuck Berry’s “The Power of Love” and Huey Lewis and the News’s “Johnny B. Goode” – are quite forgettable.

My advice: if you really love the story, stream the Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment movie again.

Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See all her reviews at www.susangranger.com.