I imagine it’s a lot of pressure for an actor or actress to play someone who was a real life legend. While I’m sure Renee Zellweger felt that anxiety and pressure at least to some extent, it certainly doesn’t show in her performance. Her lead performance is the life of this film, every single thing hinges of her performance being genuine. Thankfully, Zellweger gives an impeccable performance, she has everything down from the distinct looks to the ticks and unique personality. And because of the very narrow scope Judy has, the lead performance being so great is a life saver.
Everyone recognizes the name Judy Garland, the legendary singer and star of one of the most famous films of all time, The Wizard of Oz. The version of Judy everyone saw on the screen and stage was a wonderful, talented star Unfortunately, her real life away from all that was extremely troubled. She was one of the victims of the old Hollywood studio system. Her mother and the head of MGM, Louis B Mayor, got her hooked on drugs to help her sleep and then get up from a very young age, worked her like a horse, and would hardly let her eat anything. While she experienced great fame and praise in her early years, as time went on, the drugs and alcohol got increasingly worse and her health rapidly declined. The tragic life of Judy Garland is captured in the timespan of just a matter of months in Judy. While the scope is very small, the lead performance and context given makes it feel somewhat bigger. The proper feelings are emoted and I think the main goal is accomplished.
I wasn’t completely sure just how much of Judy’s life would be covered by this film. I knew it was about her later years but I wasn’t sure if it covered the last couple years or what. It only covers her time in London, 6 months before she died. There’s a part of me that does wish it covered the very last months, but I understand why they chose to focus on this stage. This stage shows her while she’s still performing and puts her increasingly fragile state on display. The struggle of performing while dealing with substance abuse and having to be separated from her children is something substantive. I like the lens things are shown through. Judy is shown as a real person and the film takes a sympathetic approach, which is nice to see due to the struggles she suffered. Zellweger treats every scene with such seriousness and it’s lovely to see such a spot on portrayal. If it was caricature or too over the top, the film just wouldn’t have worked.
Judy’s costumes and hair/makeup is all beautifully done, it serves as a great support to Renee’s captivating performance. I realize there’s of course a lot of takes and rehearsing, but honestly Renee’s portrayal came across as effortless. I love that one of the things this film focused on was how good of a mother Judy was and how affected she was by having to leave them for work. I think that is a really important part of her overall story, especially towards the end of her life. I also loved the flashback scenes that showed her as a little girl with Mr. Mayor at MGM. Those scenes are necessary because it gives a crystal clear reason for why she struggled so much with addiction and pain. The way in which she was mistreated is crucial to her life story and I’m glad they chose to portray that.
Judy isn’t in the top 5 of the year so far but it’s a well made film because of Renee Zellweger’s lead performance. It also shows Judy Garland as a real person with struggles that weren’t all of her own making. It tells a section of her story in an endearing/loving fashion.
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