Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, October 15, 2020


Finn Wittrock wtih Zellweger
JUDY (2019). Director: Rupert Goold. 

With her finances in a shambles and her addictions getting the better of her, Judy Garland (Renee Zellweger of Down with Love) is importuned to give a series of concerts in London. As a girl Garland was given pills by the studio to keep her weight down, among other reasons, and she's come to rely on them to get her through the day and night. She wants custody of her smaller children, Lorna and Joey, but ex-husband Sid Luft (Rufus Sewell of Hercules) thinks they would be much better off with him. Her new husband, Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock) tries to get her a deal that might make her financially secure, but will her bad reputation put paid to that as well?

Loosely based on the stage play End of the Rainbow, this new movie is much more sympathetic than the play, which presented a burlesque of Garland's later years. It doesn't whitewash her, but it does make an attempt to understand her better. This is certainly helped by Zellweger's Oscar-winning performance, as she clearly studied Garland and the lessons paid off. The biggest problem with the film is that Zellweger does her own singing. She has a voice, but she is no Garland, although she mimics Garland's style and approach to a song very capably. The other performances, including those named as well as Jessie Buckley as her handler, Rosalind; Darci Shaw as young Judy; and others, are all quite good. Of course the movie has to include an adoring gay couple as well as other scenes that rely on dramatic license. The ending is contrived but moving. 

Judy got some serious hate from viewers. Most of this hate came from obsessive Judy-fans who will not be satisfied with anyone other than the real Garland, but for that you have to rely on her old movies and recordings. If you are interested in seeing and hearing the real Garland I would recommend the CD Judy at Carnegie Hall and the film A Child is Waiting

Verdict: No masterpiece by any means but an entertaining look at a great entertainer with an outstanding lead performance. ***.


angelman66 said...

Perfect review, Bill, and I agree on all counts! Zellweger really does an amazing job bringing this character to life with both humor and pathos. The fact that she doesn't sing like Judy Garland doesn't bother me, as in real life Garland had had a tracheotomy from a 1965 overdose and had literally lost the "magic" quality of her voice practically overnight--within a narrow range she could manage, but she could no longer vocally soar over that rainbow...
I also had quibbles with some of the artistic license taken with Judy's true story, but that performance by Zellweger is really supernatural. To be honest, I didn't think she would be able to pull it off and I was (happily!) wrong!

William said...

Yes, Chris, I had always thought of Zellweger as a lightweight, but she made a strong commitment to doing right by Garland, researched her, studied her, and it really paid off with an Oscar. Garland's voice in her later years was not what it was a decade or two earlier -- how could it be? -- but she was still quite good and she sounded great at her Carnegie Hall concert, which may have been before the tracheotomy.

Anyway, thanks for your comments, Chris! Have a great weekend and stay well!

Shawny said...

I just couldn’t get into Z’s performance. I can see that she worked hard and gave it her all. But from the beginning I couldn’t shake that she was wrong for the part. The biggest problem though is that she replaced Judy’s voice. It was puzzling. That magic and grace she brought to the stage/screen was missing. If you saw the Freddy Mercury film, that was the way to bring a vocalist back to life.

William said...

Thanks for your comments, Shawny. Other people agreed with you about Zellweger, and as I say in my review, the voice was a big problem. They should have used recordings of the real Garland. Haven't seen the Freddie Mercury movie yet but I will check it out. Take care.