Directed by Rupert Goold
Written by Tom Edge (screenplay), Peter Quilter (based on the stageplay End of the Rainbow)
Starring Renée Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Rufus Sewell
Run Time 1 hour, 58 minutes
by Rosalie Kicks, Old Sport
“They hound people in the world, anyone that is different.”
It is impossible for me not to shed a tear when I hear the iconic song, “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz. It is always at the same part too: “...and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true..”.
Hearing that specific phrase belted out by Judy Garland, causes a rush of emotions inside of me. It gets me every time. My face blushes, my palms sweat (Note: I do have hyperhidrosis, which basically means I am the Creature from the Black Lagoon… I know I know, I just keep getting radder, old sport) and my eyes well up. I try to shake it off to avoid the inevitable tears that will stream down my face but it never works. The song brings to mind all those pies in the sky rattling around in my brain. It reminds me about all the screenplays I want to write and movies I want to make. For obvious reasons it also makes me think of Judy and her tragic life. Thoughts of Judy, unfortunately don’t fill me with hope, but instead an utter sadness.
Let’s go back to a happier topic, dreams. I find dreams to be fantastical. They have the ability to transport me and provide the opportunity to leave this dreadful place behind. They keep me up at night but also keep me sane. When I hear Judy’s voice, I am literally taken over the rainbow and find myself in the director’s chair, where I belong. I travel to a place where magic is made: a movie set. This trip is only made possible, thanks to Judy.
Set in 1968, The film Judy, tells the story of Judy Garland (Renée Zellweger) as she performs in London for what would become her last concert tour. At this point in her life, she found herself struggling with a drug and alcohol addiction and mental health issues. She is also broke. One of the opening scenes is her being run out of a swanky hotel with her kids in tow due to not paying off room service tabs. Judy is a hot mess.
She takes a job in London to pay bills but primarily with the purpose to win her kids Lorna and Joey Luft back. After living somewhat like a nomad, her ex-husband and father of her two children, Sidney Luft decides to take custody of them in order to provide a more stable life. The children seem appreciative, happy to not be on the run, but clearly miss their mother. There are moments sprinkled throughout the story demonstrating how hard it was for Judy to be performing in London without her children. However, even with her children serving as motivation, and a super organized London assistant played by up and comer Jessie Buckley, Judy still struggles to walk the line. She also fails to remain single, getting entangled with her fifth and last husband, Mickey Deans. A person that is best described as a sleazy game show host. The only thing he had going for him was that he was not Mickey Rooney. Heaven only knows why Judy ever fell for that baby.
The script is your typical, formulaic bio-pic at work. However, what makes this movie worth watching is Renée’s stellar performance as Judy. I realize it is often said that someone was made to play a particular role. In this case, I don’t feel the statement could be more true. Renée was meant to play Judy, especially at this particular time in her life. She fully embodies the late film star so much so, that one may think she was brought back from the afterlife. Renée appears to portray the role so effortlessly and I believe this could be due to the similar experiences she has had to Judy throughout her Hollywood career. I would like to believe Renée understood Judy’s sadness, as the feeling of her despair never leaves the screen. Even during a touching moment she has with fans, a gay couple after one of her nightly performances, her feeling of melancholy is still present.
Similar to Judy, Renée has had her ups and downs throughout her Hollywood career. There’s no doubt that the Tinseltown circus is not easy, especially for aging female actresses. Her most well known performance being in the 2002 musical hit Chicago. She then went on to win a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in Cold Mountain in 2003. After this point, her career went to starring in mostly forgettable flicks (Listen though, I really liked, Cinderella Man… YES! the Ron Howard flick. Check it out if you haven’t seen it. Remember when they ran this campaign because no one was seeing it?) and after the 2010 film, My Own Love Song, she fell off the map for six years.
What made the film Judy better than the average biopic was the interspersed clips from her past as a way to represent what made this person who she was. Darci Shaw, gave an unbelievable performance as younger Judy Garland. For those not too familiar with Judy’s past, these scenes will help fill in the gaps and provide an understanding of how Judy Garland found herself in the particular situations she was in. By giving the audience a glimpse into her past they gain understanding. The story chose to focus on scenes from Judy making Wizard of Oz and her interactions with Louis B. Mayer (a Satan like figure). It is realized, the movie making business of the past (possibly could be said for present too) isn’t all razzle dazzle. Instead, it is a world of pill popping and not being allowed to drink milkshakes (as it might ruin your figure) and a stolen childhood.
Judy was one of those extraordinary beings, a gift that was given to us. I think of her as being made of glitter. I imagine that when she walked into a room, it immediately got brighter. There was a shimmer to her, she was luminous. She only stuck around for a short while, only making forty seven laps around the sun, but managed to leave an everlasting mark. I think we only got to have Judy Garland for a little bit because we didn’t deserve her. Oh sure, we fawned over her but didn’t treat her with the respect she deserved. All she wanted was the things everyone else had, it was just a lot harder for her to get them. We loved the idea of her, but we never loved her.
See it in theaters Friday!
Directed by Rupert Goold