Directed by Rupert Goold
Starring Renée Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock and Rufus Sewell
By Tim Basaraba
Releasing a biopic certainly increases a studio’s chances for Oscar gold. Last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody proved this assertion, as did Rocketman, with both films faring well with both fans and the critics. Could a film about a different, but equally as beloved, star do the same?
In Judy, Judy Garland, played effectively by Renée Zellweger, arrives in London to perform a series of sold out shows as she attempts to rise from the ashes of a career that had ground to a halt in the U.S., but unlike A Star Is Born (1954), there is no vehicle to revive her career, just the lonely isolation of a hotel room where she hides in preparation for her nighttime shows.
As with all biopics, the lead actor is the key to Judy’s success, and Zellweger shines in her musical numbers. During scenes meant for high drama, however, I was not convinced. For a life full of addiction and pain, Zellweger’s Garland comes across as a cavalier diva and not what I believe the directer, Rupert Goold, intended: To show a loving mother who would do anything to get her two young children back in her life. The rest of the cast does well in this period piece, especially Rufus Sewell as Garland’s ex-husband and the father to her children.
Bohemian Rhapsody gave us a safe biopic with an amazing performance by it’s lead; Rocketman took chances with a fantasy-musical approach. Both are better than Judy, which relied on a series of flashbacks to the Wizard-of-Oz-Era-Garland trying, though unsuccessfully, to connect them to what would be the last six months of her life.
If Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman are both a B+ then Judy is a C+.