Judy Garland has always been a Hollywood icon. She is most famously known for her work in the classic “The Wizard of Oz” where she clicked her timeless Ruby Red Slippers as Dorothy. Even though I was born after Garland’s career and all too short life, I am still familiar with a slice of her work. “The Wizard of Oz” role taught me that Garland was a talented child actor who was a triple threat. Garland could sing, dance, and act. Up until seeing the new biography “Judy,” that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge about the talented actress.
While “Judy” is rated “PG-13,” it does not hold much back in educating the audience about her tough childhood and life. “Judy” covers Garland’s life in 1968 while she was performing concerts in London, where there was still demand for her show. Garland, trying to gain custody of her kids and making a temporary life in London was the plan to get her life back on track and custody of her kids. Of course, the film uses many flashbacks as far back as “Wizard of Oz” to help explain Garland’s addictions and set the stage that her life was anything but roses.
I think it is pretty safe to immediately hand Renée Zellweger the Oscar for her portrayal of Judy Garland. From the few clips I have seen outside of “The Wizard of Oz,” Zellweger completely mirrors Garland’s mannerisms and facial expressions. With the help of a little makeup and prosthetics, she even looks a great deal like her. Garland was an alcoholic bundled with insomnia and an eating disorder. As a child actress, she was never allowed to eat normally for the fear of gaining weight and losing her appeal. While she was working on a show where there was a cake involved, Garland was not allowed to touch it. It was easy to see that Garland hated the lifestyle, but she was stuck with nowhere else to go. Garland was given sleeping pills often and when she was drinking, it often got ugly. Alcohol caused Garland to lose control and eventually offend her audience.
A majority of the film is quite dark and depressing because it does showcase many of Garland’s darkest times. It was sad to witness such a talented life unravel. Zellweger did a brilliant job of portraying Garland at her brightest moments along with her darkest moments. Zellweger actually does sing each hit from Garland. From “The Trolley Song” made famous from the film “Meet Me in St. Louis” to the timeless classic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Zellweger smokes each one of them. Fair warning, her performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” will bring you to tears. There was not a dry eye in the audience once the credits rolled.
The look within “Judy” is also worthy of praise. The look from 1968 was spot on and beautiful. The set for the theater in London, is pretty amazing. Lightbulbs were everywhere along with the beautiful velvet curtains and tapestries throughout the building. Costumes were done with meticulous detail and everything felt real from its time.
“Judy” is definitely worthy of your time in the theater because it is quite a spectacle. It is entertaining as well as educational. I enjoyed my two hours watching Zellweger do her thing and bring the late, great Judy Garland to life. Zellweger’s legendary performance alone should be enough to get your rear into a seat. Just be sure to bring a friend that will let you cry on their shoulder.