Judy Review: Zellweger’s performance is a career best as the iconic entertainer
Touching on the struggles and issues legendary entertainer Judy Garland faced in the last few years of her career, Judy is a near perfect example of the entertainer’s strength with Renee Zellweger punching her ticket as an early awards favorite.
As said before, the film follows the last years of the iconic Judy Garland (Zellweger) as she attempts to revitalize her career by going to London. Although Garland finds a small resurgence in her career with great performances and even some love from a new guy, Mickey (Finn Wittrock), there’s still a part of her that feel broken. With her being away from her children and her abusive upbringing catching up with her, Garland must attempt to do everything in her power to be able to see and stay with her kids.
Right from the start, Zellweger is absolutely incredible as Garland as she purely embodies the charm, confidence, and devotion she’s known for. Just as Mickey says, Garland is one of the greatest entertainers of all-time and Zellweger definitely shows why. From the witty lines she delivers to the great singing performances, Zellweger captures the viewer’s attention in every single scene. Not to mention, with every smile that Zellweger presents also comes a feeling of pain that Garland is internally suffering from. The latter years of Garland weren’t the best and the film, as well as Zellweger really sells that in more subtle ways and it ends up being much more effective. This is definitely one Zellweger’s best performances and it’s so transformative that I can’t see why she won’t be a top name in awards talks later this year.
Like I said before, Garland’s final years definitely didn’t have her walking down a yellow brick road and the film definitely shows that. There’re some moments that hit where it hurts, and the film definitely plays as more of a tragedy than a triumph. From the issues she faces in trying to keep her kids to even just finding the desire to keep performing, the film strips away the glitz and glam of Garland to create a much more personal story. Even with tragedy, though, the film does explore Garland finding solace with some an interesting scene with two fans and some moments with her new manager, Roselyn (Jessie Buckley).
There’re also some scenes where we cut back to Garland as a starlet to see why she is so broken and where her issues arose. While these scenes leave their impact and show why Garland is sort of obsessed with performing, they’re presented in such a generic fashion. Obviously, seeing Garland be abused by studio heads and forced to diet and take drugs hurts to see, but these scenes aren’t delved into enough be anything that special. Not to mention, they take up such a small part of the film so when the film cuts away to them – it’s almost like a distraction or a momentum breaker to what’s happening with her in her final years. The end desperately needed more as well because it just gives a two-line synopsis on what happened to Garland after seeing her final performance. It’s a dreary way to end the story and it could’ve been a great moment to delve into the legacy she left behind.
I will say, though, even for the dreariness of Garland’s final years – she gave incredible performances that are highlighted through the film’s musical moments. The set and costume design are incredible in these moments and Zellweger is an absolute treat. I actually appreciated how the film utilizes Zellweger singing as it made these moments feel more special and they’re never overdone or made to be too glamorous. This choice makes the performances much more personal and the finale is a perfect example of this. The film’s use of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is perfect as it feels like a real moment for Garland and it’s a moment that warrants viewers to hold back tears.
Judy may not perfectly delve into Garland’s final years and struggles as a rising star, but Zellweger’s incredible performance and engaging story make it a worthy film to hold up against the legendary entertainer. The start of awards season is here, and Zellweger just cemented her name as an early favorite here and it’s performance that’s truly a career-high for her.