In the decades since she died, it’s become common knowledge that Judy Garland struggled with drug addiction for years. As a child, MGM fed her diet pills, sleeping pills, and ‘pep’ pills to stay awake. She was a drug addict before she had a choice. It’s hard to watch self-destruction, but it’s even harder when we know how it ends. Sadly, that sums up Judy, a tragic, if standard issue biopic elevated by the passionate and vulnerable performance from Renée Zellweger.
Based on Peter Quilter’s play End of The Rainbow, Judy doesn’t attempt to tell Garland’s entire life story, but focuses on the winter of 1968 and Judy’s series of concerts at London’s Talk of the Town. In debt and fighting for custody of her children, Lorna (Bella Ramsey) and Joey Luft (Lewin Lloyd), from her third ex-husband Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell). With her kids across the ocean in California, Judy wonders if she still has what it takes to entertain a live audience.
The buildup to the first concert (45 minutes into the film) is both suspenseful and exciting. When she finally belted out “Be Myself,” my mother and I turned to each other and smiled. Given everything she had gone through, it was wonderful to see her taking such command of that stage, that audience. It also gives Renée Zellweger a chance to do some real singing. While she will never be mistaken for Judy Garland (that would be impossible), there’s no denying the woman can sing.
Zellweger has mastered Garland’s every look and mannerism. The expressive lips, teary eyes, the slouched shoulders. It’s all just like Judy. The hair and makeup artists nail her look. Jany Temime’s fabulous costumes capture Garland’s image. Zellweger’s performance allows us to see a slightly erratic woman who was also an amazing performer, who could be very professional. She could be strong-willed, yet also gullible. She had a performer nearly all her life and was desperately trying to balance that with motherhood. Watching that struggle is tough.
Director Rupert Goold does sugarcoat Garland’s story. He doesn’t condemn Garland for her drug use. At its heart, Judy is a celebration of an incredible talent and a life gone too soon. Only forty-seven when she died, it’s impossible not to wonder what might have been. As a side note, as I write this I’m listening to “Judy at Carnegie Hall,” one of the great live albums.
Presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, sharpness is solid, and interiors look well defined. There are no print flaws to mention and colors are bright and vivid. Blacks are dark and deep, low light shots offer nice delineation.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack works well for the material. Not surprisingly, music is the dominating feature. The entire soundscape is used well during concert sequences. Effects get less to do but are fine in ambient matters. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout.
English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- From the Heart: The Making of Judy (HD, 4:05) Brief EPK featuring interview snippets with Renée Zellwe
- Judy Image Gallery (HD, 1:17)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:13)
Movie title: Judy
Duration: 118 min
Director(s): Rupert Goold
Actor(s): Renée Zellweger,, Michael Gambon,, Rufus Sewell, , Finn Wittrock, , Jessie Buckley, , Bella Ramsey
Genre: Biography, Genre, Musical