In late 1968 Judy Garland was a pill-popping has-been. Oh, sure, she was legendary and beloved but she was broke and she couldn’t get a gig. Except in London where promoters were willing to book her despite her erratic ways.
The new film Judy, with Renée Zellweger in the title role, chronicles those few weeks when she worked her magic before adoring British audiences. She also had several disastrous episodes there, brought on by her drinking and her pills.
That’s right, Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland. With hair dye, makeup and a pucker, she gets the Garland look. Or close enough. My recent memories of Miss Z are of a slightly heavier Bridget Jones but Renée Zellweger is, in fact, a slim woman, as was the latter day Judy Garland.
Zellweger also nails the Garland kinetic body motion, like a bobblehead almost, likely a result of Garland’s being wired much of the time.
Judy is not a full life biography film but includes many flashbacks to Garland’s younger Wizard Of Oz and Andy Hardy days when producers and handlers were constantly hounding her about her weight. Even in those early days of her career, she was guided away from food and toward diet pills.
The film features several entertaining musical numbers and recreates the magic of Judy Garland’s ability to light up a room. But even with the accommodations afforded her by the London folks, she continues to live on the edge.
Along with her career issues, her personal life is a mess. She regrets having to leave her two younger kids with their dad Sid Luft (Rufus Sewell) when she goes across the pond. In London, she marries the much younger Mickey (Finn Wittrock) who she barely knows. While she relishes the chance to perform again, her London promoters assign Rosalyn, a handler (Jessie Buckley), to make sure Judy shows up on time.
Judy Garland was a tragic figure and this film captures a representative slice of her life with its highs and lows. As much as the world loved her for Wizard Of Oz, A Star Is Born and her TV work, existence was a struggle for Judy Garland.
Cheers to Renée Zellweger for giving us a glimpse of Judy at her best and her worst. Is Zellweger Oscar-worthy? Portrayals of famous individuals do sometimes lead to awards. There will be buzz but she’s not a shoo-in. As they often say on TV, only time will tell.