MOVIE REVIEW: “Judy” stars Renée Zellweger (Jerry Maguire, Chicago), Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, Beast), Finn Wittrock (Unbroken, The Big Short), Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist, Dark City), Michael Gambon (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Gosford Park), Richard Cordery (Dickensian [TV series], Glorious 39), Royce Pierreson (Murdered by My Boyfriend, Wanderlust ), Darci Shaw (The Bay [TV series], Bitter Sky [Short]), Andy Nyman (Ghost Stories, Death at a Funeral), Daniel Cerqueira (Saving Private Ryan, The Woman in Black), Bella Ramsey (Game of Thrones [TV series], Hilda [TV series]), and Lewin Lloyd (The Aeronauts, His Dark Materials [TV series]). It is directed by Rupert Goold (True Story, The Hollow Crown [TV series]), with the screenplay being written by Tom Edge (C.B. Strike [TV series], The Crown [TV series]). After going broke, Judy Garland (Zellweger) travels to London in the winter of 1968, in an effort to make enough money for her and her kids.
Growing up, many kids found their favorite films in the latest Tobey Maguire “Spider-Man” flicks, Will Ferrel comedies (when they were good), or even Robert Rodriquez kids’ package (“Spy Kids,” “Sharkboy & Lava Girl”). However, I was an odd one out; for quite a few years, I went through a strong “Wizard of Oz” phase, brought on by seeing it for the first time in second grade (or so I remember). I was blown away by the scope of the feature, even after so many years since its release. My favorite character was Scarecrow, but if there’s one thing I couldn’t deny, it was the gravitas and talent brought on by a young Judy Garland, who portrayed Dorothy Gale. As I got older, the passion for “Wizard of Oz” dulled, but the fascination in Garland and her career strengthened. She led quite a sad life, one filled with horrible industry moguls, loads of pills, and several divorces. The glitz and glamor shown on screen couldn’t hide the brokenness behind the curtain, and I found it interesting in learning the backstory of Garland. I didn’t know much (nor have I seen really any Garland flick), but when the trailer for “Judy” dropped, I knew I had to see it. Watching Renée Zellweger grace the screen as Garland and taking in the fact that Hollywood was releasing a movie about her brought immense joy to me. Unfortunately, I missed out on seeing it in theaters, but I was able to snag it on rental and experience it with my grandma, who shared the same intrigue with the fallen star. “Judy” boasts a brilliant performance by Zellweger, one of the best (if not the best) performances I have seen from a woman this year. She was by far the best part of the feature, portraying Garland with the upmost respect and rawness that you could imagine. I felt like I was there with her, experiencing the final months of her professional career before she passed away at forty-seven years old. The surprising thing was, Zellweger never even lip-synced the songs she sang; she sang them herself, and was actually pretty good. Granted, she didn’t sound (nor match the excellence) of Garland, but what she did served to the raw direction director Rupert Goold sought to capture. His direction was pretty solid, with some good visuals and beautiful aesthetics found in costuming and production design. It’s a nice film to look at, and accentuated the cold feeling the story evoked. I was interested in the entire journey, however I will say the story leaves more to be desired. “Judy” serves as a depiction of some of Garland’s final months performing, and the moments that are chosen range from entertaining to slow. The first act takes a while to get its legs, with very little set-up to actually give us a sense of the story’s direction. Once London comes a’knocking, things pick up for the better, and I found myself more glued to the screen. The rewatchability value of “Judy” isn’t really there, though. Besides Zellweger’s performance, seeing the events unfold for the first time is enough for this reviewer. Not that the movie is a throwaway. Mainly, I got what I wanted out of it, and aside from showing people how Zellweger knocked it out of the park, there isn’t too much to be engaged with a second go-around. Really, that’s how quite a bit of these biographical films go. But in the case of “Judy,” I did find myself more disappointed in how the overall experience turned out. It had moments where the story dragged, and sought to tie in a theme that I was surprised to find in there (not really surprised, it’s an Oscar checklist item, and is tethered to two side characters). Overall, “Judy” is an interesting watch for those who like Garland or want to learn more about her (and Zellweger’s performance is unmatched). But, if you don’t care for the subject matter,
you may find yourself bored. FINAL SCORE: 78%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: