Sunday, October 27, 2019

Movie with Abe: Judy

Directed by Rupert Goold
Released September 7, 2019

The most public people often have the most complicated personal lives. In many cases their struggles aren’t revealed until after their untimely deaths, coming to light only when they have nothing left to hide and used as a cautionary tale for those suffering from similar afflictions. Those in the public eye, however, may be more apt to have their troubles aired in the press or gossip columns, hopeless to hide what they’re going through from an eager and judgmental audience. Persevering in spite of being under a microscope can be extremely difficult and deeply crippling.

Actress Judy Garland (Renée Zellweger) finds herself unemployable after repeated incidents and missed performances, keeping her young children in tow as she tries to find a way to stay afloat. Made aware that overseas may be a viable option and desperate not to lose her kids, she reluctantly travels to London to headline a series of concerts. Her fear of fading into obscurity threatens to derail the entire tour as she flashes back to painful memories of a childhood spent being starved and forced to live out a picture-perfect existence as a studio star with a reputation to present to the adoring world.

Garland is a major pop culture fixture, and this portrait of the actress showcases just how embedded with anguish her talent was. The scenes set early on in her career with executive Louis B. Mayer crushing any rebellious or individualistic ambitions serve as a haunting and effective background for her later addiction issues. The costumes, art direction, and particularly the cinematography that frequently focuses in on Garland’s face as she performs all serve to assist a story that, while appearing picture-perfect, is replete with blemishes indicative of far deeper trauma.

Zellweger, who hasn’t been seen widely in film for more than a decade, follows up her Oscar-winning turn in “Cold Mountain” with a truly stunning and wholly immersive transformation. Doing her own singing is remarkably impressive, capturing Garland’s musical prowess while demonstrating the extent of her emotions while on the stage. Jessie Buckley, who turned in her own standout musical turn in “Wild Rose” this year, provides decent support as her designated handler in London, but this is largely a one-woman show, with Zellweger delivering astoundingly to enhance an otherwise standard biopic which shines a light on a great star who was never fully allowed to be herself.


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