26 September 2023


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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

Director: Rupert Goold, Universal Sony Screen Entertainment.

Cast: Renée Zellweger, Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon.

A tragedy at its core, this biopic delivers a poignant peek into an icon’s longing for happiness. Oscar-winning Zellweger is unbelievably good in the title role in what is a mesmerising account of the life of American actress, singer and dancer Judy Garland.

The calibre of Renée’s acting is enhanced with her winning several Best Actress awards, including the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and British Academy Film Award.

Garland relocates her stage career to Britain in the last year of her life. After some initial success for a run of sell-out concerts at the Talk of the Town nightclub in London, her efforts eventually stop making progress and even start to worsen due to health issues.

She was fighting acute stage fright and her substance abuse had taken its toll on her voice. She was broke and trying to win back custody of her youngest children, Joey and Lorna, from her third husband, producer Sydney Luft.

Judy was in love again with a younger man who promised her positive new opportunities and a better future. She was a woman on the emotional edge, finding fragile solace in the arms of her lover and eventual fifth husband Micky Deans (Wittrock).

In June 1969, the Hollywood star died after a barbiturate overdose at just 47.

Against unsurprisingly extravagant and melodramatic backdrops, with magical memorabilia flashbacks, this is a film of full-bodied, but volatile stage accomplishments. Multi-faceted and fascinating, the relationship dramas and professional meltdowns make for fascinating viewing.

Zellweger has a distinctive screen presence with, at times, an uncanny resemblance to Garland … cleverly captured through specific camera angles by cinematographer Ole Bratt Birkeland.

Renée sang some of Garland’s most iconic tracks in Judy, including Somewhere Over the Rainbow and The Trolley Song. What a comeback!

Goold (True Story), an acclaimed British theatre director, based the film on Peter Quilter’s play End of the Rainbow with a screenplay by Tom Edge (Lovesick, The Crown).

What year did Judy Garland die? If your answer is correct, then you could be one of our three Blu-ray winners of Judy. Entries should be sent to [email protected] by Monday, 2 March 2020. Names of the winners will be announced in Frank Cassidy’s PS-sssst…! column on 3 March 2020.

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