Judy – Renee Zellweger gives one of the best performances of her career

Posted on 16 October 2019
By Roisin Gordon
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Judy Garland was one of cinema’s greatest icons renowned for her extraordinary singing voice and screen presence, perhaps remembered best for her role as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz which has left a lasting legacy on film.

Sadly things weren’t very magical for Garland behind the scenes, as her struggles with addiction and depression meant her life was cut short prematurely.

This film serves as a reminder as to how much of a captivating performer she was, as well as how tragic her life was. Thanks to a stunning performance by it’s lead actress, as well as a story that keeps you invested, Judy is a rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish.

The film follows Judy’s time in London, where she performed a set of sell-out concerts towards the end of her life. Despite her large fan following over there, things don’t go quite as smoothly as hoped as her personal struggles often get in the way of her performances.

Judy Garland’s on-screen persona usually showed the glitz and glamour, but this film mostly looks into the more tragic side of Judy’s life showing how her struggles during her youth carried through into her adult life.

The film effectively weaves together flashbacks from Judy’s days as a starlet at MGM Pictures to present day, going to show how the mistreatment she endured as a young girl went on to impact her as she grew up.

From controlling her eating to making her take pills to stay awake and sleep in order for her to fulfill contract agreements, it’s truly heartbreaking to watch this young girl suffer and being taken advantage of.

Despite the film’s tragic themes, there are some sweet and moving moments scattered throughout that help to uplift you from the sadder moments.

One scene sees Judy spending the evening with a gay couple, where you see them connect through their hardships. The scene shows clearly the loneliness that Judy felt being away from her children, as well as showing how her music provided solace to the couple at a time when they faced descrimination for being together.

It’s a small but important scene, as it recognises the following that Judy had within the gay community, and provides you with a warmth as you see these characters enjoying a shared moment in what is a rather cruel world for them all at the time.

Renee Zellweger shines in her portrayal of Judy Garland, with this being one of the best performances of her career. She shows a more worn and fragile side to Judy than the spirited young woman we knew from the films she starred in. Yet she also brings a vibrancy to her performance reminding us of the joy she brought to the screen.

Her dramatic scenes are the strongest in the film, as she brings a vulnerability and sadness that allows you to empathise with her and what she has been through.

One particular moment sees Judy speaking to her daughter Lorna on the phone, where she makes it clear that she wants to live with her father. It’s a harrowing moment, especially knowing that Judy did these concerts in order for her children to remain with her.

Zellweger already proved she could sing thanks to her performance in Chicago, but this proved to be a much trickier challenge, as Judy Garland had such a distinct singing voice that made every song she sang her own.

Whilst Zellweger doesn’t exactly replicate Garland’s singing voice, she manages to carry herself well enough with each song.

Whilst Zellweger steals the show with her performance, the supporting cast also turn in some great performances, even if they weren’t given the same room to shine as their leading lady.

This includes Darci Shaw who played a younger Judy Garland, who brilliantly captures the young star full of hope and dreams, but you empathise with her as you see her being diminished by the darker side of Hollywood.

Jessie Buckley also provides a small but memorable role as Rosalyn Wilder, who was Judy’s assistant during her time in London.

She shows to be firm but patient with Judy, as she tries to get her through the concerts despite the star’s personal troubles, yet they develop a mutual respect for each other over the course of the film.

Judy is a tragic but also a fascinating look at a Hollywood icon, bolstered by the performance by Renee Zellweger.

Purple Revolver Rating: 4/5- A Star is Reborn