Judy review: 'Zellweger holds this stiff, stagey offering together'
It’s 1969, and the fabulous Judy Garland (Renee Zellweger) is in a spot of trouble.
Broke, depressed and desperately trying to keep custody of her two children, Garland reluctantly agrees to a five-week stint in London, where she’ll perform her greatest hits, night after night, at the Talk of the Town club.
There are issues. Garland will be forced to leave her kids behind, in America, with ex-husband Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell). She can barely make it through the day without a drink. A series of flashbacks from the set of The Wizard of Oz, where a teenage Garland begins to kick back against the cruel behaviour of her horrendous Hollywood minders, reminds us of the hardships endured by this most fascinating of performers.
Rupert Goold’s Judy — a safe, conventional adaptation of Peter Quilter’s Broadway smash, End of the Rainbow – is exactly the kind of showy, music biopic you’d expect to see around this time of year.
It’s also the kind of film in which every other actor involved must make do with minimum screen time (poor Jessie Buckley and Michael Gambon barely get a look-in).
Goold’s film — though capably performed, and reasonably well assembled — isn’t nearly as good, or as insightful, as it might have been, and you come away with more questions than you had going in.
Zellweger is the best she’s ever been. Warm, accessible and charismatic, she holds this stiff, stagey offering together, whenever it looks like it might crumble. But I never really believed that Zellweger was Judy Garland. All I could see was a decent actress playing Judy Garland.
Likewise, the concert sequences are unusually polished, relying heavily on a pre-recorded soundtrack (with Zellweger providing Garland-esque vocals) to fill in the blanks. It doesn’t work. Oh well. It’ll do, for a rainy Sunday afternoon.