“Judy” Review: Renée Zellweger Is Judy Garland

Judy looks back at the life of performer Judy Garland, and features a powerhouse performance by Renée Zellweger.

Based on the play End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter, Judy stars Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland in her later years. The film also features Darci Shaw as a young Judy, moving occasionally back to her time as a star for MGM Pictures. The film primarily focuses on Judy Garland’s life in the final years of her life, as Judy takes an offer to perform at the Talk of the Town, a London theater. As Judy begins a run of sold out performances the success and progress begin to diminish as her health begins to deteriorate.

The strength of the film lies solely on the shoulders of Zellweger, who commands the screen as Judy Garland. Judy takes the London gig to help raise money so that she can gain custody of her children with Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell). She lives a lonely life, clearly yearning for someone to truly care for her. She latches onto a young man named Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock), who seems to care about her but also wants to ride her coattails. There are plenty of times throughout the film where we can see the pain within Judy, without her ever truly expressing it. Zellweger plays up the silent moments, and meaningful glances in a way that is powerful beyond measure.

This is a story of someone who has given their life to perform for others. It’s clear that Judy continues to perform, not just for the love of the act itself, but because she feels a duty to continue- one that was drilled into her as a child. We see her go about a routine and a process that is unhealthy, and extremely dangerous. Yet this routine was pushed onto her so fervently as a child that by the time she is in her 40’s it’s something that she does without thinking. Judy was a woman who found something she was good at, and was exploited for it in a way that was abusive, traumatic and eventually caused her death.

Judy
Image via Pathé/BBC Films

Far too often we look at those who entertain us as nothing more than tools to bring us joy. They aren’t people, they don’t have any value past the entertainment they serve to us. In the process we push them to a point that is beyond humane. We let football players receive brain damage, we watch child actors go through torture as they lose their youth and any joy they have in order to continue performing. We don’t care how they feel or what they think about things, just that they make us laugh or cry or enjoy something for a few hours at a time. But these entertainers are people, they feel just as we all do, and often they are abused and taken advantage of to a point where all that’s left is loneliness and trauma.

It’s sad to think that one of the greatest performers to ever live spent the last years of her life in such a lonely space. That she spent so long being raked over the coals, just for a few films and songs. Judy deserved to be a regular girl at times, and live a life that was full and beautiful- just as we all do. This film reminds us of that, and begs us to be better and to keep in mind that performers deserve to be happy. It’s a fitting lesson from an actress who has been pushed to the side in recent years.

Zellweger’s last major role was 2016’s Bridget Jones’ Baby, before that she hadn’t starred in anything since 2009’s My Own Love Song- a film that I honestly hadn’t even heard of. Zellweger used to be a major star, working consistently since the early 90’s and hitting it big in 1996 with her role in Jerry Maguire. She took a 6 year break from acting after which she explained that her hiatus from performing was partly due to how she was being treated in the industry, and partly done to help take care of herself.

Judy is as much about Garland as it is Zellweger, a story of an amazing performer who was used and tormented until she was discarded. Zellweger pours her heart out through this performance, and makes it one of- if not the best of her career, while also giving one of the best performances of any actor- male or female, in 2019. This is a film that deserves attention, and her performance deserves recognition. It’s something that will haunt you and stay with you long after the credits roll. Something that will remind you that you’re human, and so is she.

Rating: A

Judy is currently available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital, buy or rent it here!

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Judy Poster
Image via Pathé/BBC Films
Written by Alex Lancaster
(Alex is a life long film fan, and has dedicated his life to watching, making and obsessing over films. His favorite film is Big Fish, and he despises Avatar. He has a 5 year old son. And a bad habit of saying more than he needs to. Follow 
@alex5348 on Twitter)

 

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