★★★★ | Judy
Renee Zelwegger is electric as the late, great Judy Garland in the new film Judy.
Judy is a semi-biographical account of her time in London in winter 1968 where she performed a five-week sold-out show at the venue that was called ‘Talk of the Town.’ The film also traces her life when she became very famous for the film Wizard of Oz, and how it affected not only her career, but also her well-being, her relationships with men, and her overall sanity.
It’s 1968, and it appears Garland doesn’t have two pennies to rub together (hard to believe a woman of her calibre and celebrity would be in such a position), with two children in tow (the father of the children is Sydney Luft, while Liza Minnelli was a bit older and already on her own), and not a place to call home.
So Garland is asked to go to London to perform, and it’s an opportunity to make some real money so she can get a home for her and her children, which would put some stability in theirs, and her, lives. But Judy is, to put it mildly, a mess.
She’s drinks a lot, take pills a lot, and is practically frightened to get on that stage. But when she puts her mind to it, and leaves all the demons behind, she is a tour de force. But she is not consistent and it’s a mystery as to which Judy will appear each day.
Judy shows us a Judy who was struggling and still looking for a little bit of hope, love and sanity in her final year of life (she died in 1969 of an accidental drug overdose in London).
Zelwegger perfectly captures Garland’s look, body and voice (yes, it’s actually Zelwegger singing). Zelwegger lost weight for the role, and it’s her best performance to date which could net her an Oscar. The rest of the cast don’t fare as well. While Finn Wittrock is good as her 5th (and last) husband Mickey Deans, Rufus Sewell is a bit dry and boring as Sydney Luft, while Jessie Buckley has a thankless role, and task, as her London minder.
And while the performances of Zellweger singing are captivating, the scenes of her as a young girl on film sets just don’t seem to ring true (bullying by the studio head – Louis B. Mayer and her minders – are a bit exaggerated). Director Rupert Goold doesn’t quite capture the entire essence of Judy’s life, and time, in London and in her younger years. With this being his second directorial effort, I feel that he just wasn’t quite qualified to take on a film of a woman with so much stardom, of such legendary status, and unfortunately heartbreak.