This Judy Garland biopic finds a rainbow in its weak spots.
It’s no wonder why many people would want to see Renée Zellweger as the one and only Judy Garland in “Judy.” Because she’s a charming actress portraying a singing legend. And as skeptical as I was about some of the choices made here, it has its Toto in the right basket.
When Judy performs on stage, and when she expresses her emotions is mainly how I’m convinced Bridget Jones would be Vicki Lester. She’s clean as a whistle here, even if her real-life character takes a U-turn. This biopic also shows us the booze and pills she has engaged in during her movie career and her last touring job in London.
We see a few childhood flashbacks when her younger self (Darci Shaw) is forced into strict diets and pills in order to look thin as Dorothy Gale. We do feel her pain, but I felt Dexter Fletcher told a more effective tale of Elton John’s past in “Rocketman.” They basically come as fly swats.
And we see her current situation, involving her ex-husband Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell) taking full custody of her kids. So, to gain them back, she heads off to London for a tour, where she marries Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock) and begins to deteriorate with her fading singing voice and boozed-out behavior.
“Judy” was directed by Rupert Goold, an English theater director. He guides Zellweger on an old-fashioned path that reminds the actress why she got back to acting, following her break. Most of the time, she convinces us with her grace and style, while sometimes she just sounds like Zellweger doing her own impressions. Still, she really brings out the best Judy Garland she can provide for herself and the audience.
I also admired Wittrock as Mickey Deans, especially a big argument scene he has with Zellweger; and the two are adorable on set. I heard there was even a prosthetic nose problem that went horribly wrong during a kissing scene. It came off all slimy. At least that’s what I heard during a conversation between them.
And solid work is contributed by Sewell as Luft and Jessie Buckley (“Wild Rose”) as Judy’s English assistant.
There’s also a strong sense of notion here, as Judy loves her kids so much that she wants to come back to Los Angeles as soon as possible; but it becomes harder because of her drunken behavior. It’s all because of the difficult life she’s had off camera. Even if Liza Minnelli became a Broadway star, she still didn’t want her kids to suffer the same abuse she did.
Long after the screening, I was pondering on my overall decision. I’m not sure how accurate the movie is, and I heard Minnelli attacked it for being an invasion of privacy; but there are some strong points that make the biopic worth watching.
I didn’t see where Liza Minnelli “attacked” the film, rather she disavowed that it was anything official. Zellweger tried to reach out through a mutual contact, but that was ignored. It’s too bad, because I think Zellweger tried to show great respect to the material. The period dealt with was Judy Garland at her worst at the end. If you are going to even attempt to emulate her with an actress that is probably the best period of time to focus on.