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‘Judy’ Shows the Little Girl Crushed by La La Land

Judy review Renée-Zellweger

Judy Garland didn’t arrive on the set of “The Wizard of Oz” and cry, “where are my pills?”

The teen got fed pharmaceuticals to keep her weight down and her energy soaring despite cruel working conditions.

Think a steady diet of both barbiturates and amphetamines, the start of a lifelong addiction that ended her life at 47.

That’s a critical element in “Judy,” starring Renee Zellweger as the tortured superstar. The film captures Garland in her final months, desperate for cash, love and validation. It’s a smart, if hardly spectacular biopic, but Zellweger nails Garland’s jittery soul in ways that could command Oscar’s attention.

The movie opens with a teen Garland (Darci Shaw) getting dressed down by an unnamed studio executive. Is it Louis B. Mayer himself?

It’s ghastly, and the damage it did to the budding superstar would play out for decades.

We’re then introduced to Zellweger’s Judy Garland, a fading star struggling to make ends meet. She reluctantly agrees to perform a series of shows at London’s Talk of the Town, a move that could reignite her career while keeping her apart from her young children, Lorna and Joey Luft.

That’s assuming she can stay sober and manage her tumultuous love life.

The latter gets complicated with the arrival of her fifth husband, Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock). The former? Well, staying clean proved all but impossible for Garland, something we watch play out on a loop in the film.

Zellweger’s Judy Garland is difficult to behold. The talent is there, of course, from that booming voice to the ability to shrug off one-liners to fit any occasion.

She’s a pro, even when she’s thoroughly intoxicated.

Still, she’s frail and unsteady, a legend unsure where to put her foot next. Is Zellweger’s turn too mannered, too on-the-nose? Perhaps. It’s a consistent performance, though, the kind that lures you in for every quivering breath.

That’s talent.

The film itself is merely good. The structure isn’t intoxicating, as we hope poor Judy can make it from one gig to the next. Her affair demands more screen time, more depth, as does her ties to a gay couple which appears partly to justify a Kleenex-clutching finale.

FAST FACT: Frances Ethel Gumm, AKA Judy Garland, made her theatrical debut at the age of two and a half in Grand Rapids, Minn.

The flashback elements prove both essential and cruel. A staged “date” with young Mickey Rooney is as heartbreaking as every other part of Garland’s childhood. It’s all fake, brimming with dehumanizing messages that would reduce any teen to tears.

How Hollywood carried on like this deserves another, even more critical feature film.

Garland had her adult enablers, too, but they were more kind, more willing to roll with her mood swings if it meant she’d make it on stage that night. Jessie Buckley tackles that task, playing Garland’s handler desperate to keep her nightclub commitments on schedule.

That’s no easy task. The film doesn’t oversell the star’s addictions. They’re obvious and debilitating, but their presence isn’t exploitative. It’s impossible to tell the Judy Garland story without them, thought.

“Judy” captures the star on stage, belting out the songs that made her an icon. It’s Zellweger’s voice, a fine instrument that can’t compare to the real deal. That, and director Rupert Goold’s perfunctory staging, diminish what should be “Judy’s” not-so-secret weapon.

That voice.

Still, “Judy” isn’t here to showcase Garland’s singular talent. It’s meant to capture the woman behind the voice, and from that perspective “Judy” delivers.

HiT or Miss: “Judy” won’t make the Best Picture race more interesting, but the same can’t be said of the Best Actress category.

The post ‘Judy’ Shows the Little Girl Crushed by La La Land appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.



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