Starring: Renee Zellwegger
Directed By: Rupert Goold
Runtime: 1 hour 58 minutes
The Wizard of Oz is the movie that made me fall in love with movies.True story, my earliest memory, is of not seeing The Wizard of Oz.But having nightmares about The Wizard of Oz.Piecing this together through the years, I believe a babysitter sat me down and watched the movie on TV.I went to bed and the only thing I can remember is clear as day The Wicked Witch came into my room and shrieked something at me.
That story aside, The Wizard of Oz is one of the single most iconic movies of all-time.Not up for debate.That’s a fact.It’s everything movies should aspire to be.It’s a big production, something that leaves the viewer awestruck with this sense of wonder.It’s a fabulous film.It’s star Judy Garland lead a rough life, even before The Wizard of Oz’s release.Manhandled and micromanaged by studio heads her entire career lead to a life of pill popping and boozing.
Judy tells the story of Ms Garland traveling to London, one of the last bastions of her fandom for a run of performances in 1968.The singer is played by Renee Zellwegger, who in the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you I loathe her.As an actress and a human.My hatred of her stems from before she changed faces on us and lied about it.The vitriol began back in the Jerry Maguire days when everyone called her cute and adorable, and yours truly just never saw it that way.The Two-Face angle only complicated matters between us.
All that preamble leads to this, the movie is quite good.It has its flaws, that we’ll get to, but Judy is a wonderful re-telling of a time in a performer’s life that is rarely focused on in any movie, the end.It’d be easier to tell the story of Judy Garland’s rise to fame and her string of successful films leaving the dark final years to a simple text on screen epilogue.It’d be more interesting to tell the story of the making of The Wizard of Oz.But Judy is based on a stage play called “End of the Rainbow”.It settles in with Judy’s demons and stays there.
In the winter of 68, Garland is a functioning alcoholic, destitute, and out of work.Unable to be insured as an actress, let alone hired, Judy is forced to go across the pond to London where is set to perform a string of sold out concerts.The movie follows her as she drinks herself to sleep and refuses to rehearse, all the while, nailing her nightly performance, and flashing back to her MGM days as a teenager when she was forced to do things that haunt her still.
Judy is not necessarily an upbeat movie, it isn’t as much fun as it could be, and I kind of liked that.It doesn’t sugar coat the legacy of Judy Garland.Liza Minelli has said she does not endorse this film, but no one can find anything in this film that didn’t happen in real life.
Renee Zellwegger does a really excellent job of falling into the role of Judy Garland.Since she’s used to changing faces you really don’t see who’s behind the prosthetic chin and false teeth.She nails Judy’s voice and mannerisms.Almost to a fault, Garland often shook due to a lifetime of alcohol and barbiturate abuse, and the ticks throughout the film almost become distracting.She is worthy of the praise she is receiving, and that comes from a man who does not care for her.She will get an Oscar nomination, she could even win depending on the competition.I’d call her the front runner at this early point.
The movie is flawed in a unique way for me, personally.I do not like going to the movies to see one person perform.One person being so dominant, while the other cast members are left with scraps is a detriment to the movie as a whole, in my opinion.Renee Zellwegger is the only person in Judy who gets to do anything.The movie is written in a way that does not allow anyone else to shine, even for a second.
The other flaw in the picture is the movie’s use of lip synching for the concert scenes.I’m pretty sure it’s Renee Zellwegger singing, and lip synching her own vocals on screen; she underwent extensive training for this part.But it is a bad lip synch.Distracting.I’m not sure the reasoning here, but it takes away from the movie significantly.
Those are two really big strikes against the movie for me.They might not bother you, and you’ll come out of the theater loving this film.That’s fine.Good for you.Judy is close to being a great movie.I respect the bold choice of showcasing the final year of her life.The acting is fairly impressive.The movie making leaves something to be desired here.
On a scale of “See It/Stream It/Skip It” – Stream It – There’s enough here to warrant watching at some point.If you’re a massive fan of Garland’s, of course you’re going to see it, I imagine you’ll love it.
If you liked Jackie (2016) both are portrayals of difficult and iconic women that managed to lead to an Academy Award nomination for the movie’s star while leaving nothing else for any other actor to do in the film, What’s Love Got to Do With It, or The Wizard of Oz you might enjoy Judy.
3 out of 5 stars for Judy.A serviceable bio-pic that will be talked and debated about a lot over the next few months by film goers.