|Finn Wittrock wtih Zellweger|
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. ***.