“I’m only Judy Garland for an hour a night. The rest of the time, I’m part of a family. I just want what everybody wants. I just seem to have a harder time getting it.”
Judy, based on the play, End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter, tells the story of legendary actress Judy Garland in the Winter of 1968 during her time as a performer at The Talk of the Town Theater in London. But as Garland’s troubling circumstances continue to become heavily prevalent in her everyday life, Garland resorts to sleeping pills and alcohol to keep her inner demons at bay. Garland’s troubled life isn’t completely unknown, but Judy takes on the dark subject matter and showcases Renée Zellweger at her best.
It’s been awhile since a film has ever made such an impact on me. Or for that matter, a single performance in a film has ever made such an impact on me. You’ll hear critics say, “this performance was the best of their career!” This, being when someone says how great the actor’s performance is. But as I say it here, Zellweger’s performance as Garland, though it is the best of her career, is something that I claim to rarely see onscreen from any other actor. She is a triple threat! From the moment Zellweger steps on that stage, you’re taken aback at how much she transforms into this role. During the musical scenes, you can immediately tell that Zellweger is singing live. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but you hear the vocals stripped away of all the overproduced fluff that can cause a track to lose its genuine qualities. Those little things throughout the movie are what make Zellweger’s performance all the more empowering. The singing, the mannerisms, each one does so well at capturing, not only a new take on Garland, but brilliantly captures the emotion that so often flowed through Garland’s performances. Thus, paying homage to a great icon, but also making it her own. Zellweger has made herself a clear front-runner in the competition for Best Actress. If anyone is going to remove her from this slot, they better give one hell of a performance.
As for the rest of the cast, they pale in comparison to Zellweger’s beautiful performance. And on top of that, the story, and overall flow of the film, begins in a very stale state. There were a few scenes where director Rupert Goold should have considered axing such slow scenes, as they didn’t do anything to really forward the story. Goold, however, does a fantastic job at keeping this film incredibly personal. Goold often, and for long periods of time, pulls in tight on Zellweger’s face. Thus, capturing a greater depth of emotion with each scene. The play, for which Judy is based on, garnered some dismal reviews, with most saying how the characterization of Garland was disrespectful. However, you don’t feel that with this film. Although it’s a rather dark and, at oftentimes, a sad portrayal of Garland’s struggles, you’ll walk away from the movie with great sympathy and love for the actress.
Judy could’ve gone one of two ways. It could have been a film like Mommy Dearest, where Faye Dunaway’s interpretation of Joan Crawford scratched out any of Crawford’s talents and left a movie full of distasteful impersonations. However, Judy, though focusing more on the negatives of her life, never diminishes Garland’s place as one of the greatest actresses to ever grace the silver screen. Judy, though its main story may have a few problems, offers a Zellweger performance that is just too good to miss.
Directed by: Rupert Goold
Written by: Tom Edge
Starring: Renée Zellweger, Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley, Rufus Sewell, and Michael Gambon