Judy: The BRWC Review. I will always be a staunch defender of biopics. They are so often criticised as avenues for mere imitations and half-truths, which in the case of some films is true. But to disparage all biopics for simply being made is only a failure to realise their cultural and historical importance, and above all else, the homage they pay to the extraordinary individuals who find themselves the subject of a script.
Judy Garland to me was always the little girl following the yellow brick road, she lifted my imagination to new heights as a child, but I knew nothing more of her. It wasn’t my generation that became endeared to her as a stage performer, nor was it even my parents. My grandparents were who was around for her all too brief time on this planet.
And when all was said and done, it was her journey to Oz that endured more than anything else. Now her biopic “Judy” has arrived and stars Rene Zellweger in her finest performance ever. It taught me that Dorothy went on to become someone so larger than life that she got lost in the stars and never fully came back down. But for a few, far too brief moments, she managed to take us up there with her, and it was extraordinary.
Judy captures the twilight of the prolific performer’s career and sees her dwindling for next to no money as the United States forgets about her more and more. Despite it meaning she must leave her beloved children behind she decides to head to London, where her fame still resonates, to make enough money to get custody of her children. There she begins to perform a series of sold-out concerts, that unbeknownst to anyone, would be her last hurrah.
There is a whole lot love about Judy and nothing more so than the masterful performance of Rene Zellweger in the starring role. Hers is the best performance I have seen all year, and I say that knowing very well who else is in that conversation. She swoons on-screen and paints an endearing and sincere portrait of her muse. She does Judy Garland a great honour with her portrayal as when she begins to sing, and the lights are blaring down onto her, she becomes so captivating you won’t even blink. Zellweger becomes Garland, and she does so with a passion that ensures even when the script begins to fizzle, she continues to command the screen.
With that said the script does indeed have some flaws, there are the usual historical inaccuracies, though they’re nothing too egregious. One problem occurs late in the film when the major drama reaches its conclusion, it happens quite suddenly and in a somewhat stunted fashion, but I must say the performance is more than good enough to make this easy to ignore. In fact, the scene this leads too is one of Zellweger’s best, even if it is a slightly underwhelming resolution to a crucial plot point.
The other slight issue is in the grey area the film doesn’t shed any light on. We never get to see Judy in her best days as a stage performer, only her final days and her tumultuous beginnings on the set of the Wizard of Oz. This makes for some powerful parallels that explain how Garland ended up where she did, but it does feel as if we skipped some rather important occurrences in between.
Director Rupert Goold has made something quite special with his efforts. He generates an enormous amount of empathy for Garland and does so in a compassionate manner. Yes, her flaws are there for all to see. She takes to the stage when in no condition to do so and insults unruly audiences for being impatient with her.
But Goold makes it very clear that despite her failings she was a special, one of a kind performer who, as one of the characters say in so many words, managed to bypass the ears with her songs and land straight in the heart. Goold’s first feature “True Story” was scrutinised for lacking substance and his inability to realise his subjects fully, he has come a long way since and it was to Judy Garland’s benefit that he has.
Judy, we won’t forget you, I promise. This is a film that enhances the grandeur of a star from the past and does so with enough empathy and kindness to make it one of the finest films of the year.
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