Ever since ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ exploded onto the big screen last November, biopics are being seen as blockbuster films - and it seems everyone is trying to rush out any kind musicians’ story. The latest biopic takes us behind the curtain for the life of Judy Garland, adapted from the stage play ‘End of the Rainbow’.
Judy (Renee Zellweger, ‘Bridget Jones's Baby’, ‘Chicago’) is at a low, bankrupt as her last husband fights for custody of her two youngest children. The American audience has simply became tried of Garland, so to make any kind of money she has to take her concerts to London where the crowds pour in for a sold-out five-week run.
Zellweger is absolutely fantastic in the role, completely transforming into Garland and giving it her all. From the look to the accent, she is Garland through and through. She once again proves her singing chops perfectly mimicking Garland’s iconic voice and has great energy in the film’s musical moments, ‘The Trolley Song’ being a standout. The rest of the cast is pretty un-noteworthy; it’s Zellweger’s movie.
Everything around Judy herself falls a little flat. The choice to make a biopic about Garland and the focus to be on these London concerts is strange considering everything that happened in her life. While it does take place six months before her death, there are a lot of more interesting moments that happened in her 45-year career. There are some interesting angles, like her relationship with her children and her fight to keep them, but much is left unfleshed out like the unnecessary inclusion of her love story with her fifth and final husband Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock, ‘Unbroken’, ‘La La Land’) - it's poorly built up and their scenes felt the most out-of-place within the film.
The story has very little interest in showing Garland warts and all; we see her as a loving mother, even to Liza Minnelli (portrayed by Gemma-Leach Devereux, TV's 'The Tutors'). While she might get a little too drunk or be late on stage, it’s very mild. Not necessarily a problem - it’s the same way ‘Saving Mr Banks’ softens both Walt Disney and P.L. Travers - but if you’re looking to see all sides of Garland, this isn’t the biopic for you. The film is a celebration of an icon and nothing more.
Zellweger is absolutely fantastic in the role, completely transforming into Garland and giving it her all. From the look to accent, she is Garland through and through.
The heartbreaking reality of Judy’s life is the way that MGM and the studio system manipulated her as child, from saying she eats pizza to the public when in actuality she was being starved, among other things they did to her to keep her thin and bright-eyed. The film does flashback to a young Judy throughout, with the film opening with her on the set of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, and throughout we see the poor way she was treated from fake dates to sleeping pills and how these still affect her in adulthood; that is really emotional to process, even if the scenes aren’t the most well-acted or written.
‘Judy’ is a film that celebrates Garland's legacy, and while the film is a little generic in its storytelling, Zellweger’s truly phenomenal performance pulls you into this behind the scenes to look at one of Hollywood’s greatest stars.