By Nick Maylor
A good movie featuring a brilliant performance by Rene Zellweger in the title role, Judy is a lavish character study that never stops being interesting due to Zellweger’s utterly captivating performance.
The film is based on the West End and Broadway play End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter and portrays the iconic singer’s series of performances in London shortly before her death and dives deep into her struggles with marriages and custody of her two young children.
Zellweger is simply brilliant as Garland in a role that should earn her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Along with Taron Egerton’s brilliant turn as Elton John in Rocketman (2019), it is entirely possible that the two best performances of the year come from musical biopics. Like Egerton did for his role of Elton John, Rene Zellweger performs all of her own singing in Judy which results in some genuinely powerful scenes where she portrays Garland; exhausted, malnourished and doped out while still giving it her all on the stage. Zellweger doesn’t sound exactly like Garland but she doesn’t need to. She evokes the internal loss and pain of the late singer with every grandiose note.
As is true in the best of these types of performances, you lose the actor and simply see the character. Zellweger channels Judy Garland and embodies all the manic highs and depressive lows of the famed singer’s tortured personality.
The film also features flashback scenes of a omyoung Garland where she is portrayed by actress Darci Shaw. Showing the endless struggles of Garland’s life as a child star, these scenes show us a young girl who was polished, pampered, packaged, starved, drugged and exhausted by Hollywood legend Louis B. Mayer, who is portrayed as ruthless and abusive towards his number one product.
The film itself doesn’t manifest greatness but it is elevated by Zellweger’s towering performance. A worthy portrayal of a music legend in an increasingly popular genre.
Nick is an actor/writer/comedian/musician from Hamilton, ON Canada. Having been a film nut since the early days of his life, Nick has had an obsession with cinema and popular entertainment. Nick has written for thecinemaholic.com and is currently working on a book about the American Cinema Renaissance (1967-present) with John H. Foote. Nick met John when studying acting at the Toronto Film School, for which John H. Foote was director and Film History professor. The two have been arguing ever since.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickMaylor