Swanner: Judy tells the story of the last few years of Judy Garland’s life. Starting off with her London Concerts, Judy has to leave her two youngest with their father in the states as she travels to England to perform. At this point in her career no one in America will work with her after many divorces, bad behavior, and rumored addictions. Once in London Judy, continues her destructive lifestyle, being too drunk or wasted to perform. Renee Wellweger plays Judy, giving her a voice and face of the woman who started her career playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.
The film is based of Peter Quilter’s stageplay “End of the Rainbow” a one woman show about Garland. Tom Edge adapted the screenplay with Rupert Goold directing. I will warn you that if you’re a Judy fan you’ll find many discrepancies in the timeline with the London Concerts starting 1961, not 1968 and she didn’t happen on Mickey Dean at a party, he delivered her prescriptions from a pharmacy to her hotel. Even if the timeline was correct it, still wouldn’t help the flaws of the script. Only really giving us a summery of Judy’s last few years. That’s what makes Zelweger’s performance all the more brilliant. She gave Judy life. Even with her singing not being a perfect match, she knew how to performance the song the way Garland would have.
We all have heard the lows of Garland’s life, with pills supplied to a teenager by the studios, and the years of her trying to find someone to love her. It’s probably why her children meant so much to her. Even with the limitations the screenplay offered, Zelweger gives us a flawed Garland, scars and all. I would have liked to see the film utilize her music more, especially in pivotal scenes. They do it once after she marries Mickey Dean where she sings “For Once in my Life”. The soundtrack has songs left out that I’m sure would have added more body to the film, but I’m sure the studio said to trim down the running time. The studios are still controlling Garland, even after her death.
The question here is does Zelweger’s performance shine above this mediocre film? The answer is a resounding yes. We can only hope that the limitations of the film don’t hurt Zelweger’s Oscar chances. This is a performance that should be remembered well after this years Academy Awards.
Swanner: 2 1/2 stars