We are in the winter of 1968 and Judy Garland (Renee Zellweger – Cold Mountain, Chicago) has broken up with her fourth husband, Sid Luft (Rufus Sewell – The Illustionist, The Tourist). On top of that stress she finds herself low on cash. This means that the iconic performer is looking for gigs. They are not as easy to come by as they had previously been due to her reputation. People in the industry were now in the know about her drinking and drug problem. Judy had a reputation on not being reliable.
As such, all she could find was a gig in London. Meaning she would have to be away from her children for a stretch. No choice, though, as she needed money. So she arrives in London to start rehearsing for a series of sold out shows at The Talk of the Town.
This is 30 years after she shot to fame after she starred in the film The Wizard of Oz. While in London she starts a relationship with younger musician Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock – from television’s American Horror Story), who will soon become husband number five.
Flashbacks show how tough the industry was on her and how hard/continuously she had worked for 45 of her 47 years. Mental and physical exhaustion have taken their toll. She now self-medicates with drugs and alcohol. Judy just wants to be home with her children. Things begin to fall apart – on and off stage.
Based on Peter Quilter’s play about the legendary performer, Judy Garland. We look at what it was like for her over the last few years of her life. Plus a window into the fact that since the age of 14 she had been supplied a steady diet of pills of various types. People did not really care about her; they just wanted her to perform. Her anxiety grows over the years and it becomes debilitating. Surprising to see someone so talented and beloved being insecure about herself.
Really is a tragedy. She need not have died so young. A real clear picture of the abuse those in the Hollywood stable of the time faced. They were just seen as property and men like Louis B. Mayer (Richard Cordery – The Wife, About Time) worked them to death.
All this is brought to the screen in an amazing way by actress Renee Zellweger. Successful early on her career with films like Jerry Maguire and Bridget Jones’s Diary, Zellweger disappeared for many years in the 2010s. This signalled her true return. Many had forgotten that she is a talented actress who is not only able to act, but sing and dance as well. Here she melds with her character. Truly becomes Judy Garland. Not an easy job as Garland is so beloved. I am sure many were looking to see if Zellweger would make a mess of things. The fact that she won the Best Actress Oscar for it demonstrates she did not. Shoulders the ample weight of bringing the world’s best entertainer to the big screen.
Though Zellweger is great here, the rest of the film is not up to the standards she sets. That does not mean that director Rupert Goold’s (True Story) film is a tragedy. It is watchable, but mostly because of the performance of his leading lady. The rest is rather average. Not awful, but certainly not up to Judy Garland standards.
- From the Heart: The Making of Judy
- Judy Image Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer