Cast: Renee Zellweger, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon
Director: Rupert Goold
I know it’s early in the Awards season, but there’s a very solid chance we just saw the Best Actress performance of 2019. Considering how much Hollywood loves movies about themselves and Judy portrays one of the most beloved and tragic icons of the Golden Age of film, there’s not a doubt in my mind that this movie will rack up nominations across every circle. Now for the real question, will these nominations be deserved. When you take into account the spectacular work by Zellweger, Judy is a melancholy and sensitive movie that shows us the price of fame and the underbelly of a society that causes much pain as it does joy.
The movie follows the life of Judy Garland (Zellweger), from a young girl trying to break into the movie scene, to a teenager struggling in Hollywood and being abused to keep her in performance shape, to an adult where the impact of this abuse has come into full effect with continued drug use, failed marriages, and poor behavior during shows. Over the course of her life, we see how the continued stress of the film and music industries have made it impossible for her to live a normal life and how Judy copes with the continuous pain and abuse for 118 minutes. Zellweger is the true star of the film and based on what she showcased in Judy she should be a frontrunner for the Best Actress Academy Award. Even though most of us may know Judy for the way she lit up the screen in movies like The Wizard of Oz, this is not a happy movie celebrating her life. This is a tragedy showcasing just how awful the industry that creates art for the masses is to its artists and the amount of pressure that women specifically are under and Zellweger amazes us with her ability to create a level of empathy and sadness as someone who was so highly regarded as Garland. Considering when this film is being released, I believe the climate of the film industry makes this film that much more important. We end up seeing the vicious cycle that Hollywood creates for its stars, the women in particular, and how even though Garland was the main victim in this particular circumstance her children suffered with her and those in the industry continue to feel the effects of her time. It may not be as bad as it was when Garland was performing and there seems to be a semblance of justice occurring in today’s society, but it’s still a healthy reminder that progress takes time and that we need to continuously be doing better regardless of the industry. While it is a rather standard award-season biopic, Zellweger’s dazzling performance and ability to connect the pain of the past to the situations of the present help Judy become an award-season mainstay and something that other films and studios need to keep an out for.
Overall, Judy isn’t going to be remembered for being groundbreaking or innovative, but it will certainly be known for the delivery of one of the most powerful and tragic performances of the year. Zellweger has built her career on being able to command the screen in any scene she’s in and it’s not a surprise that she continues to do so in this film. When you consider everything surrounding Judy, it’s a return to form for Zellweger and shows that Goold has a bright future ahead of him as a director. Only time will tell if this film gets the accolades it deserves or if the message of the movie gets put into action, but I hope for the sake of those impacted by either that justice is served.
Overall Score: 7.5/10