With Judy, Renee Zellweger has found a perfect fusion of actor and character. The story of Judy Garland trying to get back in the spotlight after Hollywood started turning her away isn’t too far from Zellweger’s own. As Zellweger moved past her prime, she took a six-year acting hiatus before making a slow comeback by starring in films like Bridget Jones’ Baby and now this. Even if Judy is quite muddled in terms of its execution, hopefully, it’ll give Zellweger the career boost she deserves.
Based on the play End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter, Judy follows the life of Judy Garland (Zellweger) as she arrives in London to play a series of sell-out concerts in order to earn money and spend time with her children. As she tries to put on shows for her audience, she grapples with substance abuse and her relationship with musician Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock). Meanwhile, the film cuts back and forth from the story’s central events to her days as a child star.
To the picture’s credit, the flashbacks make an attempt to show the root of Garland’s personal demons. The pressure to be skinny and look appealing clearly gave her lifelong insecurities. Given how her struggles are well-known, though, it makes Judy feel like a filmed Wikipedia entry. It follows the tired biopic trend of depicting established parts of its subject’s personal life with little poignancy.
If there’s one point where Judy does evoke emotion, it’s during a scene where Garland befriends a couple gay fans, Dan (Andy Nyman) and Stan (Daniel Cerquiera). Because Garland is a famous gay icon, having Dan and Stan express their appreciation for her talent was a nice nod to her influence on the LGBTQ+ community. It’s just unfortunate that the rest of the film never reaches the same level of pathos as that one sequence.
Thankfully, Renee Zellweger commits to making the film watchable with her whirlwind performance. When Zellweger doesn’t focus on doing a perfect impersonation of Judy Garland, she expertly demonstrates her turmoil, petulance, and yearning for connection. Her beautiful singing voice proves to be an added bonus. The supporting actors are also fine even if they’re underused. The one standout out of all them is Jessie Buckley as Garland’s flustered yet compassionate assistant Rosalyn.
That being said, Judy is still the Renee Zellweger show and she makes an admirable attempt to elevate the muddled material she’s given. It’s a performance that should easily put her in the Best Actress conversation given how AMPAS has a penchant for citing biopic performances. Even if it’s not among the best performances of the year, it’s still a solid reminder that even after her long absence from the big screen, Zellweger still has plenty of great performances left in her.