BY TROY RIBEIRO
“Judy”; Cast: Renee Zellweger, Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Darci Shaw, Royce Pierreson, Andy Nyman, Daniel Cerqueira, Richard Cordery; Director: Rupert Goold; Rating: **** (four stars)
Director Rupert Goold’s Judy, a biopic of the famed American actress, singer and dancer Judy Garland, is based on the play “End Of The Rainbow” by playwright Peter Quilter. It gives us an insight into the last few months of the singer’s life.
The film concentrates mainly on the last few months of 1968, when the legendary Judy Garland travelled to London for a series of sold-out stage performances, where she is shown to be in a financial mess, and addicted to drugs and alcohol. Battling a tough, lonely life, she is trying to reunite with her kids. It is her financial desperation that leads her to accept an offer for a series of concerts in London.
Laid in a non-linear narrative, the film zips through the singer’s past and present in a fluid manner, with not much of a plot. The film oft flashbacks to one of her biggest triumphs, ‘The Wizard Of Oz’, only to demonstrate the beginning of her troubles. Her present-day alcoholism, pill popping and narcissism, can trace their roots to her younger days where she was bullied, harassed and molested by the studio honcho Louis B. Mayer.
The younger Judy is played by Darci Shaw and the older one by Renne Zellweger. After the initial hiccup of registering the characters, the tale progresses smoothly in what amounts to a small but heartbreaking character study. Judy only stumbles in the finale, literally and figuratively.
Tom Edge’s script portrays Judy Garland in a conventional manner and to detail Judy’s whirlwind romance with Micky (Finn Wittrock) or her problems with her ex-husband Sid Luft (Rufus Sewell), it only gets into the detailing of her sad existence as a mother, wife and fading but beloved entertainer.
The only reason to watch Judy is the triumphant, blazing return of Renee Zellweger as the talent we’ve known her to be as an actress. She sinks into the character with amazing realism, recreating to the mannerisms, posture, facial expressions and vocal cadences of the legend. She excels remarkably in portraying Judy Garland to perfection, including singing her dozen songs with a few of them hitting the right notes, to sway you into loving the legend despite her shortcomings.
Rufus Sewell and Finn Wittrock have their stern and delightful moments respectively as Judy’s last two husbands. However, it is Jessie Buckley as Garland’s London assistant and Andy Nyman as a gay fan who make true impressions in the shadow of Zellweger. In fact, their scenes together stand out more than anything else in the film, culminating in a tear-inducing climax you won’t forget soon.
Mounted with ace production values, “Judy” is astutely filmed by cinematographer Ole Bratt Birkeland. He needs a special mention as he captures the era and the emotions of the characters to perfection. The film really excels during the musical numbers, where the camera is completely in sync with its subject.
Overall, it is Renee Zellweger performance that makes “Judy” a riveting and unforgettable experience.