Thu, 24 Oct 2019
Running time 1hr 58min
A FRANK but nostalgic look at the legendary star’s final weeks, Judy paints a sympathetic picture of Judy Garland as she arrives in London to perform a sell-out series of concerts in the winter of 1968. The film focuses on her struggles with substance abuse and making enough money to support herself and her children, to ensure she won’t lose custody
As the leading lady, Renée Zellweger gives an absorbing and magnetic performance that drives the film. She brings realism to the role – grounded, yet bringing out the actress and singer’s theatrical nature. She portrays the tragic star’s wit and anguish with equal energy and emotion.
However, the plot that surrounds her is at times lacklustre, with no singular force to drive the narrative. At the beginning of the story, it seems that Judy’s relationship with her children will take centre stage as she is forced to make the painful decision to leave them for lucrative work in London, but while she is there, the film hardly touches on how she is coping with barely seeing them. There’s much focus on her whirlwind relationship with Mickey – musician and entrepreneur Mickey Deans, her fifth and last husband. It’s a nice romantic subplot, but lacks depth.
But, when Judy performs onstage it’s an entertaining spectacle – Zellweger again does well here. Her singing does justice to Garland’s and she has great stage presence. Other highlights are the costumes and production design. It’s enjoyable to be absorbed in the swinging 60s worlds of London and LA. Judy’s friendship with a (fictional) gay couple she meets in London is also a strong thread acknowledging her gay fanbase and providing the melodramatic catharsis that lighthearted biopics such as this thrive on.
The flashbacks we see of Judy when she was just 14 and beginning to become a worldwide famous star were interesting. Resonating with current issues such as the Harvey Weinstein scandal, we see MGM head Louis B Mayer’s all too close relationship with the young actress, as well as the studio’s cruel and restrictive treatment of her. These unhappy insights add a lot to the story and really make you sympathise with Garland.
Judy has a big heart. It sets out to celebrate the life of a talented yet tragic Hollywood star – a purpose it duly fulfils. Zellweger’s stand-out performance anchors the whole film and overrides its many weaknesses, making it an entertaining and easy watch.