To many of us, when you hear the name Judy Garland, the first thing that pops to mind is The Wizard of Oz. While Dorothy was easily her biggest role, Judy Garland was a staple in classic American pop culture. She starred in the 2nd version of A Star is Born. A movie in which we just saw remade for the 4th time in 2018. She also hosted her own Emmy award winning TV show, and released multiple studio albums.
Garland was born as Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids, Minnesota before moving to LA around the age of four. She lived a life of horrible confidence and anxiety issues that are perfectly show throughout this film. Directed by Rupert Goold, Judy takes us through her late career resurgence in London, while also flashing back to her days with the MGM studio. It also shows us some of the horrible things she had to go through.
“If I am a legend, why am I so lonely?”
The best part of this film is easily the title performance from Renée Zellweger (Chicago, Bridget Jones’s Diary) She perfectly portrays the anxiety, grief, and all around confusion that plagued Judy for her entire life. There were moments you could see her putting on a face for her kids while also breaking down on the inside. Her ability to manipulate and show many emotions over the course of a scene were great. There has been some Oscar buzz about this performance and after watching the film, it is well deserved. We may see Zellweger win her 2nd Oscar this year. The first she won for her role in the movie Cold Mountain.
Another aspect of the film that really worked was the juxtaposition of her current life and the flashbacks to her life as a teenager as mentioned above. You can see at a late age she is still crippled by her anxiety and the fear of not being good enough. All this even after years and years of monumental success and that was developed at a young age. Since her start in the studio system they did things like call her ugly, gave her amphetamines to stay awake. Even giving her more drugs to try and sleep, and even gave her tobacco to suppress her hunger while calling her fat. Zellweger does a great job of bringing those past experiences to her performance. While also showing the lifelong impact it had on Judy.
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
While the performance from Zellweger was great, it must be said that those around her were not very strong in this movie. She threw this movie onto her shoulders and carried it from start to finish. It seems quite similar to the film Jackie from 2016 where Natalie Portman, playing Jackie Kennedy, was stellar and the big talk of the film. Judy will be seen the same way. A dark, depressing film centered around one singular great actor.
Another aspect, as mentioned before, that might turn some people away from the film it’s it’s overall depressing nature. There is nothing in this film that will make you feel good. It’s a dark look into an aging woman in Hollywood. One that struggles with herself, her kids, her love life, and forming friendships with the people around her. Jake Hamilton, a film critic from Fox 32 in Chicago stated that after watching this film “It will be hard to look at The Wizard of Oz in the same light as before due to all the things happening behind the scenes”. This statement may be true for many fans of the film. Not everything in Hollywood is glitz and glamour. Sometimes we as an audience are blind to the negative things that happen behind the curtain.
Judy does exactly what it’s meant to due. It shows you the end of the life of a star you may not know as well as you should while also pointing out some real issues she suffered throughout her life. The film is effective and does it exactly what it sets out to do. It will tug at your heart strings and the moment you get home you will be googling Judy Garland’s name trying to watch as much as you can from the legendary entertainer. It may be a little slower and dreary but the film is 100% worth the watch.
Overall Score 4/5