Directed by: Rupert Goold
Review by: Livi Edmonson
From director Rupert Goold of “True Story” (2015) and starring Academy Award-winning actress, Renèe Zellweger is the year’s second musical biopic, “Judy.” With a satisfactory score of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, “Judy” tells the story of arguably Hollywood’s most beloved starlet, Judy Garland, 30 years after her big break in “The Wizard of Oz.” Now completely in debt, Judy has to move to London to perform in sold-out shows at the Talk of the Town nightclub to be able to continue taking care of her children. She eventually falls in love with her soon-to-be fifth husband, Mickey Deans, all the while wondering if she has what it takes to continue as a star in this always flourishing entertainment industry.
First, I would like to say that this film has Oscar-bait written all over it. Sure, the film itself is one that older critics will enjoy, but Renèe Zellweger is the film’s main attraction. Zellweger is transformative in her role as Judy, with splendid vocals that surprisingly live up to the late icon’s. Not to mention that the resemblance between the two women is uncanny. However, Renèe Zellweger’s performance is the only element that keeps this movie afloat.
The biggest issue with this film begins with the script and ends with the narrative. Casting is great, as mentioned profusely, but the storyline itself falls short. Perhaps the biggest issue within the script is that nothing is at stake for Judy. Sure, it can be argued that her kids, as well as her career in general, is at stake in the film, but what results is a fight that is never fought.
As many know, Judy Garland was treated quite horribly by her directors, agents, etc. while growing up. This, in itself, has a certain contemporary significance considering the #MeToo movement’s effect on the entertainment industry just in the past couple of years. But in “Judy,” we never see her character truly overcome this. Of course, she is more strong-willed in the era than the audience sees her in the narrative, but her story arc as a character never truly evens out. The film has a great, moving setup, but by the midpoint, the film becomes dull and never picks up the way it should in a drama/biopic like this one.
Do I think the film is over-hyped? Absolutely — especially for what it is. If anything, go see it for Zellweger’s fantastic portrayal but do not expect to be in utter awe because quite frankly, the film definitely does not do Ms. Garland the justice she deserves. Renèe Zellweger will most definitely earn an Oscar nod for this role, if not the actual award for “Best Actress.” I can guarantee it. But for the film itself? I expect a few possible Golden Globe nominations and definitely a few wins and nods at the 2020 BAFTA’s (seeing that it is a BBC studio film) but as far as Academy gold: only for Zellweger. If by the slimmest chance this film is nominated for “Best Picture,” then that would just mean that there were not enough great films this year in the running and I can tell you right now that this is 100% not the case. I give it a 5 out of 10.