It’s been a while since I had a good cry at the movies. “Judy,” a movie that unwinds the final days of beloved actress and singer Judy Garland, had me leaving the Anjelika at Mockingbird Station with what could only be described as windshield wiper marks swiped below my eyes.
The tortured life of Judy Garland was no secret to me, but I don’t think I was emotionally ready to take in the tortured soul of a young Judy who just wanted to take in a movie like “normal girls” while slaving away on the set of The Wizard of Oz where she was given pills to keep her up and not hungry during the day and something else to put her to bed at night.
For those who don’t know, Judy was 16 years old when she portrayed Dorothy.
As she prepares for the show, Judy battles with management, charms musicians, and reminisces with friends and adoring fans, her wit and warmth shine through. Even her dreams of love seem undimmed as she embarks on a whirlwind romance with Mickey Deans, her soon-to-be fifth husband. Featuring some of her best-known songs, the film celebrates the voice, the capacity for love, and the sheer pizzazz of “the world’s greatest entertainer.
Renee Zellweger takes on the task in the movie to become Judy Garland, and might I say Zellweger herself transcends in the role.
I’d recently fallen back in love with Zellweger after binge-watching her Netflix series What/If. The Bridget Jones star is diabolical in her role as a venture capitalist who presents an Indecent Exposure-type deal to a young couple looking for an investor in a pharmaceutical company. Her performance had me like, ‘forget sweet, shy, simple Bridget,’ Zellweger was meant to play a much deeper and more complex character.
Judy was the role of her lifetime.
According to an article I read in AP, Zellweger said the task of becoming Judy Garland was too daunting to contemplate all at once. The character needed to be compartmentalized, starting with the voice and then building in mannerisms, the hair (oh, the hair), the make-up, the stage presence, and so on.
In the article, Zellweger was quoted as saying, “It was a series of experiments, an exploration that we all shared trying to understand and see what was possible, seeing what we could conjure. It was always in motion.”
Zellweger does such a stellar performance as Judy, as a viewer, your heart breaks when the character breaks; it smiles when she shines, and it cries when she cries.
As the AP writer put it: And yet as much as Zellweger’s performance is a whole-bodied acting feat, it’s not mere mimicry. Her Garland may be show-stopping Oscar bait, but it’s also a delicate and deeply felt character study. Its power lies in the fusion between Zellweger and Garland — how they naturally connect despite diverging in drastic ways. Both were American sweethearts whose public personas, forged at the heights of fame, cleaved away from them.
Two particular scenes really moved me.
The first was after a performance, Judy decides to go to dinner with a greying gay couple(portrayed by Andy Nyman and Daniel Cerqueira) who purchased tickets to all of her London performances. The trio walks all around the city looking for a place to eat in the way early morning hours before settling on an omelet at the couple’s apartment. After failing at the omelet (instead, they eat what looked like egg soup), one of the guys starts playing the piano while his icon sings and breaks into tears at how special the moment is.
In this quiet moment, he shares with Judy why there was no way they were going to miss any of her shows. See, last time she was in London, his partner was jailed on obscenity charges.
Garland then shares with him that she’s spotted them in the audience before and appreciates the consistent support, telling him in a tempered voice, “I feel like I have allies.”
The second is at the end of the movie when “Judy” sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” during her impromptu final show in London.
I don’t want to give away too much of the movie, but the moment was extraordinary.
It also really made the tears swell because it is a song I remember listening to often with my mother, who died last year.
Judy is hands-down a movie that needs to be seen.
I hope you see it. Let me know what you think in the comments below.