August 30, 2019
Zellweger rises to the challenge superbly in a standard-issue heartwarmer, premiering in Telluride, that sugarcoats the sadness
Judy review: Renée Zellweger goes full rainbow in vanilla biopic
For Judy Garland fans, the final station of the cross in the ordeal of her last years was a five-week booking at the Talk of the Town nightclub in London in 1969, which she desperately needed for the money. In those famous and often chaotic concerts she appeared frail, unwell, tipsy or bleary-eyed: mannerisms that she had long since semi-consciously incorporated into her live act. But they were real at some level. Also real were the many flashes of the old magic; emotional arias made more glorious for having been wrenched from her battered heart. This movie is about that troubled period: a defiant last stand in full view of her passionately supportive fans. It was Judy’s emotional Alamo in the face of parasitic husbands, spiteful press and misogynist showbiz overlords – beginning with studio chief Louis B Mayer, who ruined her childhood on the yellow brick road to stardom.
Judy is adapted by screenwriter Tom Edge from Peter Quilter’s stage play End of the Rainbow, and is directed by Rupert Goold; Renée Zellweger gives us a heartfelt, studied portrayal of Garland. Her performance and the film itself are forthright and un-camp, though careful to acknowledge the importance of Garland’s gay fanbase by adroitly creating two fictional gay superfans. It is clearly influenced by Garland’s own self-mythologising movie about her British period, I Could Go on Singing (1963), about the gutsy yet vulnerable singing star doing shows at the London Palladium.
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