As a child, I watched The Wizard of Oz in wonder and excitement whenever it would play on TV. My aunt once told me she could watch it forever and ever. She also told me, a child around the age of 10, that Judy Garland, the actress who played Dorothy, was abused on set. Sadly this wasn't the last time I would be hearing the tales of Garland's treatment as a child actor on that set as well as others. Judy is a condensed dive into how this childhood trauma affected her life.
I'm sorry to report that I haven't seen a Rupert Goold film until this one. He is very cautious yet aware of the story he is telling. The only real issue I have with the direction is the strange tension between Judy and Rosalyn. When they meet on screen, it's like they were mortal enemies from a past life, and it kind of drags out like that every time they interact. From how the real Rosalyn talks about real Judy in a recent NPR interview, there didn't seem to be any sort of girl hate. I'm not sure what the director's goal was here, because by the end of the film they seem okay with each other all of a sudden.
Either way, I plan to see more of Goold's work and wouldn't be opposed to seeing another biopic like this about someone else.
The film takes place in 1969, the last year of Judy Garland's life during her residence in a London night club, Talk of the Town, singing sold out shows every night. It focuses on how the trauma of her career as a child shaped who she was later on in life. That includes her addiction, motherhood, her old marriage, as well as her new marriage. It is based off the Broadway musical drama End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter.
The beauty of this story is the intercutting between her child self going through terrible trials as a child star and how she operates as an adult because of this. It paints a thorough gist of what she went through. As tragic as it is to watch, I believe everything presented in the film is vital to telling the story of Ms. Garland.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Renee Zellweger as Judy is hands down my favorite performance of 2019. Nothing else this past year can compare to this raw and vulnerable interpretation of a person during a trying time in their life. Renee gives us a wide open window into Judy's life that not many people know about, but will appreciate once they watch.
Everyone did really well and had great chemistry. I don't even know what the real Mickey Deans was like, and I don't think I care because Finn Wittrocks's performance blew me away regardless. Jessie Buckely was lovely as Rosalyn Wilder. We also get a sweet surprise that is Bella Ramsey as Judy's daughter Lorna. I had no idea she was going to be in this film, so my Game of Thrones heart was ecstatic.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The soundtrack was so much fun. It's funny because I thought to myself while watching, "Wow, this would make a great musical,” only to find out it was based on one. The songs chosen for the film were perfect and brought a magical layer to the story. The final song during one of the ending scenes really tugged every string on my heart, and I couldn't help but let all my tears roll down my face.
The movie mostly takes place in London and also in the sixties, so I was already satisfied the minute she steps foot into her hotel room. You are completely transported back to the late sixties with ease. The scenes in her fan's apartment are probably my favorite in terms of set design. We go from her lavish hotels to this every day English household that kind of grounds the world and also Judy herself. It was in this apartment that we experienced her relaxing and being just Judy and not the Judy Garland.
During the flashbacks, my first thought went to comparing scenes from the 1997 film Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story. It is very similar in the way they show how child actors were basically over worked and forced to grow up too fast. It's sad, but it's reality, even still today.
Many people like my aunt might be able to watch the Wizard of Oz on a loop, but I might not be able to watch it the same ever again.
However, I did love this movie and I can't wait to watch it again. If you're into biopics that don't over-romanticize everything, or are curious about Judy's life, I highly recommend it.
NOW AVAILABLE ON VOD | DVD/BLURAY