Review: Judy (12a)

Peter Lennon takes a look at the much anticipated biopic of cinema legend Judy Garland..

Peter Lennon
14th October 2019
The recent landscape in Hollywood has paved the way for its own romanticism, producing critical successes such as La La Land  and Birdman, but Judy sets the way for its antithesis. Depicting the later life of famed Judy Garland, whose childhood was consumed by studio pressure to be thin and work with little break, Judy sets out to highlight the chronic abusiveness of Hollywood, and the entertainment business in general.

The film is aptly titled as it rarely, if at all, strays its focus from Garland, who is wonderfully portrayed by Renee Zellweger. Zellweger captures the fragility of Garland in both her physical presence and her delivery of deflective wit, which serves to highlight the weight of that industry that would inevitably crush her. This fragility is crucial with the theme of identity that runs throughout.  During an interview, Garland states that she is "only Judy Garland an hour a night" and the truth of that is really up to debate.

Judy chooses to honour her legacy as a gay icon with an emotional night that she spends with couple Dan (Andy Nyman) and Walter (Tim Ahern). While the sequence underscores their own injustice, it also questions the idea of "Judy Garland" and if it's an on-stage persona - as she states in an interview - or if it endures as a symbol of hope for freedom.

"This ultimately creates an ephemeral quality to any sort of growth that the characters may undergo"

Unfortunately, as aforementioned, the film's focus on Garland is almost absolute and the moments given to other characters, such as the gay couple and her English assistant Rosalyn (Jessie Buckley), are fleeting. This ultimately creates an ephemeral quality to any sort of growth that the characters may undergo, and thus somewhat weakens Judy Garland as a character. It's hard to feel like she has touched the lives of many when so many of the characters feel quite unchanged.

Director Rupert Goold is at his best when crafting Garland's on-stage performances, which are contagiously energetic and dynamically performed by Zellweger. The triumph is unsurprising given Goold's history as a stage director, but his lack of experience with film also translates in its quieter moments, producing an uneven piece on the star's tragic life.


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AUTHOR: Peter Lennon
English Literature undergraduate. Although I primarily write for the Courier's Film section, I do love helping out in the Televsion and Gaming sections as well. I also organise and host livestreams/radio shows as FilmSoc's inaugural Head of Radio. Twitter: @PeterLennon79

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