Judy Garland's name is one which evokes great childhood memories – her performances and characters being those of Hollywood legend. However, unlike the energetic and adventurous Dorothy she portrayed in Wizard of Oz, with her sparkly red slippers skipping along the Yellow Brick Road, Judy Garland did not have an easy road throughout her childhood. She possessed a natural talent and was a rising star for MGM Studios but found herself in a world where she was manipulated and abused, growing up in front of a movie camera, being adored one minute and scolded the next. The studios controlled Judy, forcing her to take pills to help her sleep, make her wake, manage anxiety and curb her appetite, shaming her publicly for wanting to eat a burger and chips.
Renee Zellweger talking with Zoe Sheridan of WSFM Radio at the special screening of JUDY
The movie transports the audience back and forth between Judy Garland's childhood and the last few months before her death in 1969 at age 47. Far from the glamorous and privileged life many of us assume was enjoyed by such a popular star of that time, we watch as she tries to get herself out of the quagmire she's in, the sacrifices she makes for her family's wellbeing, the empty bank accounts, custody battles and booing crowds as she spirals out of control. We learn of her addiction to medication and how this impacted on every aspect of her life, including her family and romantic relationships, and how her insecurity affected her ability to perform. With little support, we are left to wonder whether she ever had true friends or whether those who surrounded her were manipulative tormentors and opportunistic acquaintances.
Renee Zellweger, in the lead role, is stunningly transformed to play Judy Garland and her expressions, gestures, costumes and remarkable voice (both speaking and singing) are authentic and convincing. Supported by Rufus Sewell (as ex-husband Sidney Luft), Michael Gambon (as Bernard Delfont) and Jessie Buckley (as Rosalyn Wilder), we see Judy through the eyes of those who thought they knew her as a performer and person but learned that they knew her not at all. Tragic, tormented and complex.
Though the world will always be fascinated by Judy Garland's life and the circumstances surrounding her death, the film Judy explores and explains what her life was like behind the stage and what drove her to an early curtain call, giving the story a realistic and humanistic touch.
The movie received a standing ovation from the audience and is one I would recommend to anyone who appreciates and remembers the Golden Age of Hollywood and Judy Garland's contribution to that great cinematic era.