Golda's Balcony



Seventh Art Releasing

Unnecessarily gimmicky in its attempt at cinematic stylization, "Golda's Balcony" makes an uneasy transition from the stage to the big screen. Director Jeremy Kagan's film version of the one-person stage play by William Gibson winds up upstaging its fascinating source material.

Valerie Harper -- and no, despite years of expertly playing Rhoda, she's not Jewish -- delivers a powerful solo performance as famed Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who also was the subject of a 1977 multicharacter Broadway drama by the same playwright.

The 95-minute monologue depicts Meir delivering a thoughtful and frequently humorous reminiscence about her life -- from her childhood in Milwaukee to her work for the Zionist movement to her rise to political power -- while deliberating whether to use nuclear weapons during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

As with most similar historically themed monologues, "Golda's Balcony" often feels stiff in its efforts to impart plenty of historical details while also conveying the unique aspects of its subject's personality. Gibson here handles the task reasonably well, aided by Meir's clearly evident folksy humor and wisdom.

The filmmaker attempts to provide visual pizazz to the proceedings by using a dizzying, fast-moving array of vintage photos, archival films and original artwork as a visual backdrop. But the results are more distracting than enlightening, with one eventually longing for the simpler approach used in such previous stage-to-screen adaptations as "Give 'Em Hell, Harry."

Although it's a shame that Tovah Feldshuh, who won the Tony, wasn't allowed to reprise her stage performance, it must be said that Harper (who played the role on tour) delivers a well-modulated, highly effective turn that is ultimately quite moving.