Director: Rupert Goold
Writer: Tom Edge
Based on: Peter Quilter‘s play End of the Rainbow
Cast: Renée Zellweger, Darci Shaw, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Richard Cordery, Royce Pierreson, Andy Nyman, Daniel Cerqueira, Bella Ramsey, Lewin Lloyd
Seen on: 22.1.2020
To say Judy Garland (Renée Zellweger) has seen better days is putting it pretty mildly: the glory days of the former child star (Darci Shaw) are over. Now she’s fighting her ex-husband Sid Luft (Rufus Sewell) for the custody of their children (Bella Ramsey, Lewin Lloyd). But since she has no money, no home and practically no work, she doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Begrudgingly, she therefore accepts an invitation to do a show in London, even if it means separation from the kids for now – and probably more pressure than she can actually handle.
Judy is, I’d say, okay as a film but elevated above and beyond its overall quality by Zellweger’s amazing performance and the fascination Judy Garland herself can inspire without actually being present herself in the film.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film with Judy Garland (yeah, I never even saw The Wizard of Oz, although it feels so familiar that I sometimes forget I haven’t). I also don’t really listen to her music, although I of course know her version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I say this here, to make the point that I don’t really have an emotional connection to Judy Garland, beyond her being a household name. And still, the movie managed to transmit the fascination that she inspired in people somehow. I still didn’t go out and think that I have to catch up on everything she ever did, but I can see why people where so taken with her.
A huge part of why that works is Renée Zellweger. Her performance in the film is nothing short of magnificent. I have no idea if it’s accurate mimicry of Garland herself, but it doesn’t really matter – she seems to get to the truth of something that is simply glorious to witness. But also Darci Shaw as the young Judy was really good. It’s thanks to her that we can still feel the pain of what has since become a cliché: the exploited child star who just wants to get to be a kid.
The script is okay. The dialogues are a little clunky sometimes and built to include every quip Garland ever (supposedly) said. A couple of moments were very on the nose. And the thing with the gay couple (Andy Nyman, Daniel Cerqueira) – it was on the one hand a beautiful, touching moment to see the two of them basically grounding themselves as a couple in the face of homomisia by way of Judy Garland, but at the same time, it felt a little like that scene came in from an entirely different film.
Still, despite its weaknesses, the movie was interesting from start to finish and kept me emotionally on the hook. I can imagine that it would be even more intense for people who have a personal connection to Garland. But that emotionality does not mean that the film won me over entirely.
Summarizing: worth seeing, yes, mostly for Zellweger.