Sorrowful Look At a Beloved Icon

Review of “Judy”

More stories from PeytonB

Who’s In, Who’s Out
February 20, 2020


Judy Garland after the release of The Wizard of Oz.

Before I begin, I must admit that I’m not the world’s biggest Judy Garland fan. I grew up with, and still adore, The Wizard of Oz, but I was never really interested in who Dorothy was in real life. However, after seeing Judy, I’m beginning to wish I was.

Judy is directed by Rupert Goold and stars Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland. This film takes place in 1969, a few months before Garland’s untimely death due to barbiturate overdose. After finding herself in financial trouble, she agrees to perform in a series of concerts in London, and ultimately comes face-to-face with her internal demons, resulting from years of abuse while working for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.

Whenever a biopic about a musician comes out, I’m immediately skeptical, as they all seem to follow the exact same formula.. However, that’s not the case with Judy. This is a beautiful film, with fantastic songs and a truly emotional story.

Let’s not focus on the music or the story just yet. Let’s talk about Renee Zellweger. Where in the world did this come from? She gives a phenomenal performance as Garland, and if I’m being completely honest with myself, I began to forget that I was watching a movie. She’ll definitely secure an Oscar nomination, without a doubt. It’s hard to tell if she’ll end up winning, but if Bohemian Rhapsody can win the Oscar for Best Editing, anything is possible. Anything.

The concert scenes are wonderfully done. Zellweger does all of her own singing, and even though she doesn’t sound exactly like Garland, she holds her own, displaying a lot of range. 

One of the film’s biggest strengths is how well it recreates the 1960s in general. The production design is very well-done, and the feel and mood of that decade is perfect.

However, the best aspect of this movie is the story that is presented by the filmmakers. They’ve clearly learned from the mistakes of other biopics, and have realized that the way to a successful movie is through telling something intimate and emotional, rather than sticking to formulas and throwing useless comedy at the audience. I really found myself caring about Judy, and although that can be attributed to the incredible lead performance from Zellweger, it really comes down to the story.. There’s a subplot involving her friendship with two homosexual men in London, and it culminates in what may be the most emotional scene of the year, which won’t be spoiled.

The film does have some flaws, but they’re few and far between. After the film opens with a beautiful one-shot scene on the set of The Wizard of Oz, there’s 15-20 minutes where nothing happens. Judy and her kids are kicked out of a hotel, because they’re technically homeless, and the kids go to live with their father, who has a very strained relationship with Judy. As those 15-20 minutes progressed, I became worried that the entire movie was going to be the standard formulaic biopic about a musician struggling with addiction, or some other problem. Thankfully, as soon as Zellweger stepped onto the stage and began to sing, all of my worries melted away, and I began to enjoy the ride considerably.

Speaking of the kids, they present a problem to the overall impact of the film. Every single time their subplot is brought up over who they’ll end up living with, the film screeches to a halt. The overall story of Judy struggling with her track record of bad relationships and her drinking addiction is incredibly interesting, but the inclusion of the kids’ subplot causes the film to overload at times. Thankfully, it isn’t brought up many times, but it ended up detracting from my overall enjoyment of the film.

Nevertheless, Judy manages to stand out in a sea of gigantic, fun blockbusters. It has great production design, a beautiful story and an incredibly committed performance from Renee Zellweger. A great combination for any successful movie. I truly believe that somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, Judy is looking down at the results of this film, and smiling.

Rating: A