Biopic of an iconic and beloved star of that met an untimely end, starring a top actor who is unrecognizable in the role? I guess this year’s Oscar race is officially on!

Towards the end of her life and career, Judy Garland had nothing. She roamed from gig to gig to hotel to hotel, with debts greater than her income and minimal contact with her young children. She’s given the chance to have a residency in London, performing concerts every night to sold out crowds. It’s too good an opportunity to pass up, if she can only keep herself sober and healthy enough to make it to the stage every night.

It was kinda hard to watch. Judy Garland is a treasure, and she was so abused and extorted by those around her while also spiraling into self destruction. It broke my heart. While the focus was on her last few months, there were some childhood memories mixed in to the story. I would have been interested to see more of those. They were used very effectively to parallel what led her to this point, but they got a little repetitive over time. I wanted more info and even greater insight (maybe even a happy memory) that we were getting.

I’d found the structure of the film a little odd. It was a drama with these big performance numbers in between. It all made sense when I later found out that it was based on the Broadway play End of the Rainbow. There’s a bit of a trend on Broadway to create plays with music, that are meant to feel like you’re seeing this person give a show and you’re hearing them monologue their story in between. With that context, the adaptation to film did make sense, working far better than the leap from stage to screen often does.

Renee Zellweger was phenomenal. She’s such a recognizable A-Lister and I did not see her at all on that screen. I was staring deep into her face looking for Renee and I only saw Judy. We’re gonna be talking about this performance for the next 5 months until Oscar statues are handed out. It’s incredibly likely she’ll be walking away with one (and a bunch of smaller trophies along the way).

Ultimately though, I’m not sure that I really cared all that much for this movie. It’s beautifully done and it’s emotional, but when you have a very difficult movie, you want some type of catharsis. All the pain of watching should be building to something big. The last couple minutes were powerful, but not enough to justify the journey. I left there without feeling the big impact that I’m sure the filmmakers hoped for. Still, it’s worth seeing for that transformitive performance

Judy – \m/ \m/ \m/

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