Review by Mr. Will Wong
While Rupert Goold‘s JUDY might not be that feel-good Film of the year, it is a fascinating portrait framed around the final weeks of Hollywood icon Judy Garland’s (Renée Zellweger) life. Set in 1969, we see her homeless and struggling to support her children, hence taking on a string of sold-out London shows, which pull her away from her children as she fights to retain custody of them. We see her fall in love with her much-younger fifth husband Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock), battling her addiction to prescription pills and alcohol at once. We watch her world unravel as the Film handles it all with compassion.
Make no mistake, JUDY is all about Zellweger‘s mesmerizing portrayal of Garland, which honours her brilliance as an artist and also the crippling complexity of her coping with addiction, as she balances being a mother, a lover and the icon whom the world wanted her to be. The Film cuts often to Garland‘s youth where she is played by Darci Shaw, looking to break-free from the strict regimen she is placed on, starving for both food and freedom as she is forced to down pills, keeping her awake all hours of the day.
While we feel some characters, particularly her love interests of the past and present are oversimplified and generic, all else pales in comparison to Zellweger‘s tour-de-force delivery. She is phenomenal in the glossy numbers under the bright lights with a big band as she is in the Film’s more heartbreaking moments where she is reduced to pure vulnerability.
While this story ultimately is tragic, Goold and Writer Tom Edge find that one last spark before Garland‘s light extinguished, and make it a beautiful, lasting moment.
eOne Films release JUDY Friday, September 27, 2019.