Cast: Renée Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Michael Gambon, Rufus Sewell.
Directed by Rupert Goold.
Written by Tom Edge.
Judy is a beautifully presented biopic giving us a glimpse into the life of Judy Garland, with the primary focus towards the end of her life during a series of sold-out concerts in London. We see her thrown back into a life that she doesn’t want, forced to tour to make money while faced with the threat of losing custody of her two youngest children. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. Captivating and entertaining while equally saddening and thought provoking.
Since it’s release the feature has received extremely high praise, specifically the phenomenal portrayal of Judy herself, played by the meticulous Renée Zellweger. Her performance is complex. To depict the lifetime of difficulties that Garland faced, while dealing with concern for her children, substance abuse and new relationships clearly requires immense skill. Not forgetting, of course, that Zellweger did not lip-sync in this movie, the vocals are all hers – a vast challenge in itself, never mind all of the character work. Honestly, if the rest of the movie fell short I would still recommend audiences to watch purely for Zellweger’s skill. As it happens, there’s so much more to take in and enjoy.
Most people know that Judy Garland had an extremely sad and difficult life. Even if you don’t know very much of Garland’s story you can still watch and enjoy this film, it reveals some of the challenges of being a child star in old Hollywood through flashbacks, whilst subtly implying some of the darker, even more devastating streams of abuse that she faced. There are lots of rumours surrounding Garlands experiences on set throughout her childhood that are truly heartbreaking and unfortunately, likely to be true. Goold did well to stick to the timeline of the story that he’s telling, while allowing Zellweger’s performance to show some scars of Judy’s past, as well as the great performance as ‘young Judy’ by Darci Shaw during the flashbacks.
Aside from Zellweger, the other stand out performance for me was Jessie Buckley. I was only introduced to Buckley when she starred in 2018’s ‘Wild Rose’ but she really is one to watch. There’s something about all of her performances – they are enchanting. You really get behind her storytelling and her portrayal of Rosalyn Wilder is no different. As an audience member you experience the journey of her characters almost starstruck naivety, through frustration and desperation which circles around to an empathetic but genuine friendship.
Due to the nature of this film, I believe that each audience member will find certain elements that resonate, which may be entirely different to the person watching next to them. The main thing that I took away from the film was a heavy heart. It made me consider how far Hollywood has come and how much further it has to go. This isn’t the sort of film to watch if you need a lift, obviously it deals with some serious topics, but Zellweger is sensational and if you’re emotionally prepared to for quite a heavy film (though dispersed with light moments) I would highly recommend this film.