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The only thing that Hollywood loves more than itself is movies made about the struggles of their industry. And yet, the Hollywood system has always been shamed for chewing up stars and spitting them out when they got tired of them. Such was the case since the Golden Age of Film, which produced the tragic career and life of actress/singer Judy Garland.

Judy takes a look at Judy Garland’s 1968 tour in London, where she last performed before her untimely death only six months later. The film follows a broken-down Judy (Renée Zellweger), who carts her two youngest children around as she burns through her cash to become practically homeless. The film shows how Garland is forced to travel to London and put on a show for her own financial independence and for the custody of her children.

From the get-go the film is carried almost entirely by Zellweger, who is as imperious as she’s ever been. The capabilities of what an actor can do in a role are redefined by seeing the Oscar-Winner in this film. One scene, done in a single take, has Zellweger perform an entire song – all sung by the actress herself – with the subtle imitation of Garland’s voice as well as the pain, doubt, and loss that we see reflected in her eyes. In another scene, Zellweger manages to pull off crying while singing perfectly. In the end, it’s her simple gestures and darting eyes that encapsulate the troubles and tribulations that the legendary Garland went through.

The film seeks to show the exploitation that Garland went through since a young girl – we see flashbacks to a young Judy (Darci Shaw) starting out under MGM – and how such lack of agency and suppression affected her later in life as well. The film is painted as a tragedy, and yet Garland refuses to accept this fate and holds on to the little optimism that her mind has been left with; perhaps trying to convince herself more than others.

However, the film doesn’t go deep enough into how the past molded and corrupted Garland to become the broken character she is as Zellweger. Having been adapted from the stage play “End of the Rainbow” the film doesn’t throw off its constrained locations and allowing viewers to take in a more complete and sweeping look at Garland’s life. Even in such contained scenes, the only fully fleshed out character is Garland, with the supporting cast being half-way between a caricature and a three-dimensional person. This makes any interactions Garland has, seem completely imbalanced and one-sided. As a result, the best scenes in the film are the ones in which Zellweger is completely by herself and in silence.

Judy also seems to hammer its points and themes too early on, so that by the time one is half-way through, the messages and scenes begin to become redundant. This causes the second half of the film, and particularly the finale, to water down in terms of its sentimentality. By the supposed climax of the film, one is very disconnected from the emotional trajectory of the story, giving the final scene a much cheesier smell than it would have had otherwise.

In the end, Judy works only adequately as an exploration into the character of Judy Garland. It feels to constrained, to the point that one would be better suited reading up on the actress before watching the film, in fear of being completely alienated. Zellweger’s performance, however, elevates this biopic into something truly fascinating that should be studied as a masterclass in acting instead.



About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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