Legendary performer Judy Garland arrives in London in the winter of 1968 to perform a series of sold-out concerts.
Judy is an expectedly tragic and sometimes agonizing retelling of one of Hollywood’s most heartbreaking victims. In Renee Zellweger’s riveting performance of Judy Garland, we are witness to a shameful Hollywood truth: a studio boss abusing and manipulating this super-talented and vulnerable young girl to her demise.
As a movie, Judy is a moment in time, primarily focusing on her London performances at the end of her life, punctuated by flashbacks to the heartbreaking beginnings of her career. Studio boss Louis B. Mayer (Richard Cordery), manipulates and abuses young Judy into submission and insecurity, forcing her to take drugs to curb her natural need for food and sleep. These scenes frequently take us to the reasons we see a woman in mid-life, trapped in a cyclone of desperate needs for equal amounts of adoration and drugs.
The story is clearly sympathetic to the icon herself, and Zellweger delivers a performance that will certainly put her in a top spot at the Oscars. She’s truly magnificent. We’re drawn in like gawkers, unable to look away even though we think we should. Jessie Buckley plays the role of Rosalyn Wilder, the London promotion company’s rep and caretaker to this very sick icon. As one of the few people who sees all the star’s brokenness, Buckley portrays a beautiful servant’s heart and genuine compassion for the human inside the performer.
Indeed, we’re also witnessing the larger twisted picture of our Hollywood high society. Think of ourselves as the audience for a moment. Performers are slaves to their egos, and the studios create slaves for their financial gain. Audiences demand great performances and devour Judy even when she is clearly crumbling as a human being. Then we wage anger when her drunkenness took control and ruined the show and our evening’s entertainment.
My daughter and I left the theater dazzled by Zellweger’s work and hopeful that her generation’s version of the business of entertainment is significantly more human.