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Review: Judy (2019)

The journey over the rainbow wasn’t as interesting as I would have hoped. 

As I sat down to watch Judy (2019) I thought to myself, “wait. Are the only Renée Zellweger movies I’ve seen Shark Tale (2004) and Bee Movie (2007)? Have I literally physically never experienced Zellweger act before?” Aside from her supporting role in Cinderella Man (2005) which I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen once, it’s true. I have never seen Renée Zellweger act. Which is so weird because I feel like Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) is a movie right up my alley. A Richard Curtis-penned English rom-com inspired by a Jane Austin novel? I need to see it! However, after witnessing her transformative performance as one of the most acclaimed performers of all time, I can see I’ve been missing out. I’m now fully on the Zellweger train and I’ll be riding it right over the rainbow and into awards season.

Screen Shot 2019-10-03 at 11.33.40 PM
Credit: / LD Entertianment / Pathé

Judy follows legendary performer Judy Garland in the winter of 1969 as she performs a series of sold out shows in London. Bankrupt, addicted to pills and struggling with her mental health, Judy agrees to the shows so that she can make enough money to support her kids. As her personal problems worsen, so does the level at which she performs.

Speaking of famous actresses whose work I haven’t seen enough of, the only Judy Garland movie I’ve seen is The Wizard of Oz (1939). Although, if you’re going to see one Judy Garland movie, that’s the one to see isn’t it? One of the astounding things about Judy, as with most biopics, is that it gives you an immense sense of respect for its subject as well as a newfound interest in their work. I want to see more of Garland’s movies and learn more about her life! Was she really so abused as a child actress and treated as a commodity? Was she really a badass who boldly rebelled against her evil manager? I know it’s a common theme for biopics to over exaggerate certain things for the sake of dramatic effect, but I have a feeling that’s all true. Fame can be hell for a child star and Judy does a fantastic job of capturing all the glory and grimness of show business.

Garland was obviously a real figure with real documented struggles of substance abuse problems, but I really wish that Judy had been able to focus on something else. To be fair, it touched on other aspects of her life, but Garland’s drug issues were certainly the central point. That’s my problem with biopics. The way that they all focus on the most tragic parts of their subject’s lives is so predictable, overdone and honestly, takes away some of the fun that I think made the person so beloved in life. Look, I get that performer’s lives are far from being sunshine and roses all the time and that learning about their struggles gives us a better understanding of them and their lives. But I’m a little over it. Isn’t there a more interesting or positive or original way to approach these movies? This is literally about a five week portion of Garland’s life. Couldn’t the filmmakers have picked a lighter five week portion? There had to have been one in her decades long career! Biopics are always well made but all I’m asking is that they focus more on celebrating an artist rather than showing audiences just the worst parts of their life.

In the title role, Renée Zellweger is utterly sensational. Playful, sharp and experienced for better or worse, she embodies not only Garland, but the essence of any number of world class performers. Zellweger plays Garland with the determination and fire of a woman who will do anything for the sake of her children. Ironically, she couples that desperation and concern for her own child with the childish petulance that Garland exhibited during her stay in London. I feel sorry for anyone who had to attend to Garland during that time, but it certainly made for an interesting and entertaining leading performance.

Zellweger puts an astounding array of microscopic quirks, movements and expressions into her performance, proving she’s clearly done her research. She fully commits to everything, even the voice! She sounds just like Garland when she sings or at the very least, an honest to goodness 1940s songstress. Zellweger singlehandedly demonstrates the artistry and skill that go into acting. It’s a performance that is so flawless, it’s arguably the only reason to see this while still enjoyable, otherwise perfectly fine movie. Judy may be a by the books biopic, but Zellweger’s stunning portrayal is anything but. Take away that she’s playing one of the most famous actresses in history. Zellweger deserves to be nominated for an Oscar for her impeccable performance alone.

I wish there were more to say about Judy but honestly, there isn’t. And as I’ve said before, here at Luke’s Living Room we’re all about bringing you honest and true movie reviews. If you’re a fan of Zellweger, Garland or biopics, this is absolutely the movie for you. You’ll definitely enjoy it. Though it might not have been the most memorable movie I’ve seen this year, I can say definitively that there are no weak points in Judy. You know, except for the generic biopic plot. Oh! I forgot to mention this! I was WELL into this movie, like at least an hour, before I realized that Michael Gambon was in the supporting cast. After literally dozens of viewings of all those Harry Potter (2001 – 2011) movies, how could I overlook Dumbledore so easily? Clearly I can only recognize him when he’s dressed in robes and a fake beard. Odd.

Are you a fan of Judy Garland? Will you see Judy?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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