Renee Zellweger might have been missing from our screens for most of the past decade, but she makes up for it and more with a tour de force, career-defining turn as Judy Garland.
The legendary actress and musician Judy Garland represents the epitome of the phrase "Hollywood Royalty," and is the subject of the new film, "Judy." Garland's life and career is also, sadly, a cautionary tale of how a person - namely a child - would be used, chewed up and spit out by those in power, whose only concern is their company's bottom line, and their overall corporate image.
Specifically in Judy's case, this person was Louis B. Mayer, the famous producer and one of the co-founders of MGM Studios who signed Garland when she was a teenager, and made her a star. Her iconic role as Dorothy Gale in "The Wizard of Oz" shot her into the stratosphere of fame and fortune, and made her a household name. She starred on several occasions with fellow star Mickey Rooney and also Gene Kelly, and later in life was nominated for two Academy Awards for "A Star is Born" in 1954 and for "Judgment at Nuremberg" in 1961. But what her fans and the general public may not know, is that she was under the firm thumb of Mayer and the studio throughout her entire childhood, and that the laws of physics tell us that what goes up must eventually come down.
She wasn't allowed to eat as a child on set, and was given pills every day to control her sleeping habits. It's no surprise then, that Judy Garland fought addiction and faced serious troubles her entire life, and only lived until the age of 47, where she was found in London after having accidentally overdosed on sleeping pills.
In the movie "Judy," we pick up just a few months before her demise, where broke and penniless, Judy (Zellweger) was forced to take some gigs in the UK, even though she had to leave her two small children behind in the States. She was embroiled in a nasty custody battle with her fourth ex-husband Sid Luft (Rufus Sewell) and on the verge of meeting her fifth and final husband, the musician Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock). She was hanging on by threads, and not every performance went according to plan.
Judy was a mess, but the film "Judy" is a testament to her inner beauty and the pure joy that she brought to others. Ultimately, it's a celebration of the person that she was, and a sad reminder of the person that she might have been.
Using flashbacks in movies can be hit-or-miss, but here it's the former, with newcomer Darci Shaw portraying the young, wide-eyed and innocent Judy that was about to unknowingly have her life ripped away by the talons of Mayer and the studio system. It's pure tragedy that what held Judy back as an adult was stuff that happened to her as a child, things that she couldn't have possibly avoided. All of the pain, all of the agony and all of the struggle of Judy's life is present on Zellweger's face and in her body language, and it's a sight to behold.
Zellweger sings all of Judy's songs as Judy Garland...imagine how hard it is to sing well, let alone sing well as another iconic musical legend whose voice is as recognizable as anyone's. Zellweger transforms physically, and the movie trusts her performance so much that it often just lingers on her face, relying on Renee Zellweger to carry the emotional weight of each frame. This is simply just "one of those" performances, and she's an absolute shoe-in for Oscar gold.
But unlike many other brilliant performances, her's is not one trapped in a mediocre movie. "Judy," on the strength of Zellweger's performance surely, but also of its own merits, sings a beautiful song about a tragic life.
How amazing that the world got to experience the grace and joy of Judy Garland, when she herself never got to. It was all stolen from her by a system too focused on the pot of gold to pay heed to the rainbow.
Genre: Biography, Drama, History.
Run Time: 1 hour 58 minutes.
Starring: Renee Zellweger, Jessica Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, Gemma-Leah Devereux.
Directed by Rupert Goold ("True Story").
"Judy" opens in theaters on Friday, September 27th, 2019.
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