Toronto 2019: Judy

Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland in the upcoming film JUDY. Photo credit: David Hindley. Courtesy of LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions.

Renée Zellweger remarkably transforms into actress/singer Judy Garland in the upcoming Judy and will surely contend during Awards Season.

While the film mostly takes place in late 1968-early 1969 prior to Garland’s tragic death at 47, there are flashbacks to childhood.  If you didn’t read Garland’s autobiography or take a quick glance at MGM co-founder Louis B. Mayer’s Wikipedia page some of the film’s contents will come as a shock to you.  Mayer molested the young starlet when she was coming up through the system.  The conditions depicted both on and off set are what I feel led to her prescription drug problems that would plague her for most of her adult life.

The flashbacks work for the purposes of the film.  They help to stress Garland’s mindset and why she behaves in a particular way, be it showing up late or taking pills to sleep.  Her financial issues are the reason why she finds herself performing for five weeks in London at the Talk of the Town club.  Garland is essentially forced to accept Bernard Delfont’s (Michael Gambon) offer because money is the only way she’ll be able to raise her youngest children, Lorna and Joey.

Upon arrival in London, Delfont and Rosalyn Wilder (Jessie Buckley) greet Garland.  Wilder takes her to rehearse with band leader Burt Rhodes( Royce Pierreson).  The London gig was basically forced on her because of ex-husband Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell)’s custody battle.  It’s during this time in which she marries Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock).  The two previously met at a party that Garland attended with daughter Liza Minnelli (Gemma-Leah Devereux).

One night after a show, Garland meets Stan (Daniel Cerqueira) and Dan (Andy Nyman) outside upon leaving.  She up and invites them to join her for dinner.  This isn’t something that you see everyday.  We know that the gay community adores Garland.  As such, it’s also great to see it depicted within the film.

Tom Edge adapts Peter Quilter’s stage play for screen.  The best biopics are the ones that focus on a narrow time window.  Take away the flashbacks featuring Darci Shaw as the younger Garland and this is exactly what we have in the film.

All of Garland’s health issues notwithstanding, Zellweger is absolutely remarkable.  Put it this way: Zellweger is completely unrecognizable in her performance.  Oh, and she does complete and perfect justice to Judy’s voice.  She especially kills it on the final two numbers of the film–which should drive those emotions wild.  After seeing Garland go through so many ups and downs, it takes one final night at Talk of the Town to deliver her best work yet.

While Zellweger did very few films or series, her performance in Judy more than makes up for stepping away from acting for a few years.  When you’re watching Judy, you’re not watching Renée Zellweger but Judy Garland.  The performance is a career-best.

DIRECTOR:  Rupert Goold
CAST:  Renée Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, and Michael Gambon

Judy holds its Canadian premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in the Special Presentations program. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.