Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: Drug use & offensive language
Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland
Finn Wittrock as Mickey Deans
Rufus Sewell as Sidney Luft
Michael Gambon as Bernard Delfont
Jessie Buckley as Rosalyn Wilder
Director: Rupert Goold
Thirty years after starring in “The Wizard of Oz,” beloved actress and singer Judy Garland (Renee Zellweger) arrives in London to perform sold-out shows at the Talk of the Town nightclub. While there, she reminisces with friends and fans and begins a whirlwind romance with musician Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock), her soon-to-be fifth husband.
I’m not too familiar with Judy Garland, I knew that she was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, that she was an actress and singer, and that she was in the 1950s version of A Star is Born. So a Judy Garland biopic sounded somewhat interesting to me at least. I first heard of this movie’s existence as basically Renee Zellweger’s vehicle for her second acting Oscar award, and it seems certain at this point that she’ll certainly nab the award soon. From the looks of things, Judy seemed like a rather typical and generic biopic on Garland, and unfortunately it is that, despite a good performance at the centre of it all.
I can’t speak as to the accuracy of the movie to what happened in real life. No matter how much or little accurate it is to true events however, it should be handled in a way that it’s able to work as a movie, and they didn’t seem to make it particularly interesting. As I previously said, Judy on face value looked very much like a typical music biopic, and one of those Oscar bait movies, unfortunately it’s both of those. It follows those familiar story beats, and ultimately feels more like a sad and safe tribute to Judy Garland instead of digging deep into her. While there are some issues that she’s dealing with and they are put on display in the movie, it feels like they are deliberately understating them, and not exploring her or them at all. While I knew more about Garland after watching the movie than before, I still feel like there’s a lot I really didn’t know about her. The most I got out of learning about her were in the few flashback scenes of her early in her career, and those were the most interesting parts of the movie. I know a lot of people really hate the use of flashbacks, but honestly a lot more of them would’ve considerably helped to show and reveal a lot more about her. Sadly much of Judy is mainly just showing her a year before her death, which isn’t necessarily bad but you’ve got to have something interesting to say or show about her if you’re going to do that. The end result is just showing her slow decline… and that’s it, not much exploration of her during this period and why things certain things are happening. You’d think that the movie would connect some of the few flashbacks to the events happening in the movie (present day in the story) in some way, but no. Not to mention it’s really slow. I don’t mind a slow moving movie as long as it has something interesting or compelling to show or say, but Judy isn’t any of that. Each scene on its own is fine, but when you’ve got all these bland scenes one after the other and at such a slow rate, it becomes rather tedious to watch. You get the feeling that this movie felt comfortable just sitting back and letting Renee do her thing, which is great for her but terrible for the rest of the movie. Even the attempts at emotion throughout just come across as hollow, and the melodrama and soap opera-ness became grating than actually affecting. The only time it even gets close to being somewhat genuine was a section with Judy and a fictionalised gay couple, which actually worked alright. Additionally the ending scene was among the best parts of the movie, it gets a little cheesy at a point, but honestly that’s still something compared to the rest of the film.
Literally the only reason to watch the movie is for Renee Zellweger’s performance as Judy Garland. She’s definitely throwing everything into this role and the movie very much relies on her performance. However, she unfortunately falls victim to the typical clichés that similar roles and movies have, with a different look, doing a different voice, having large emotional moments (leaving awards shows plenty of options of clips to pick for her Best Actress clip) and her character going through the same scenes that we’ve seen plenty of other movies do before. Now they very well may have happened in real life, but the writing lacks enough depth for it to feel genuine. Thankfully, Zellweger carries much of the movie and elevated it just a little bit. Had everything around her been a lot better, I’d probably go so far as to say that she’s incredible. She handles the singing side of things reasonably well too, she’s no Judy Garland, but not many people are. The rest of the cast aren’t lacklasture or anything either. They are decent, with the likes of Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley, Rufus Sewell and Michael Gambon doing well in their respective roles.
Much of Judy is directed okay but there’s nothing that stands out at all about it. Director Rupert Goold previously made True Story, a movie I thought was pretty good and also had more to it on the directing side compared to Judy. Nothing is necessarily bad here, it’s shot and directed reasonably well, on a technical level it’s all fine (the makeup on Renee to make her look like Judy Garland was great). However everything feels like it’s on complete autopilot, and lacks any kind of energy, with maybe the exception of the last scene.
There’s a lot of potential for a biopic of Judy Garland to be a fantastic movie from a biopic of Judy Garland, but the end result is bland, uninteresting, and not really that good. Even if you want to learn more about Judy, the film doesn’t explore her or really show enough about her for it to be satisfying. Not to say the movie doesn’t have its upsides, the acting is generally good, with the highlight being Renee Zellweger’s performance, and with her winning an Oscar, it might be worth checking it out for that. Beyond the acting however, don’t expect much more beyond that.