Dir: Rupert Goold
Starring Renee Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Whittrock, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Andy Nyman, Richard Cordery
In which Renee Zellweger basically calls off the Oscar race for Best Actress. Just look at the story – she’s a famous actress making a comeback (of sorts), playing a famous actress making a comeback (of sorts), doing all her own singing, embracing tragedy – oh, and she’s also absolutely marvellous and beautiful in the role. (Damn – buried the lead.)
Renee is Judy Garland at the end of her tragically short career, forced to take a residency at London’s Talk of the Town nightclub, once she’s become uninsurable in Hollywood due to her recurring dependency on drink and drugs.
Goold’s film touches on Garland’s early career – making her stage debut at two, a star in her teens, and constantly kept working by being supplied with amphetamines by the likes of a distinctly creepy Louis B. Meyer (Cordery.) Add to that her succession of failed relationships/marriages and Garland has always been seen to be an accident waiting to happen.
But the emphasis here is on her last few months, and what works about Judy – the movie – more than anything, is the way Zellweger finds such humanity and empathy in her brilliant portrayal. This is Garland behind the garlands, the woman almost always painfully suffering, and always desperately trying to hide it, always needing to be loved, and nearly always exploited instead. In Zellweger’s hands (soon to be holding an Oscar!) Judy – the woman - is touching, moving, deeply lost and always just about surviving.
Plus, she sings! Remarkably well, and, more appropriately, remarkably like her subject. There are only a handful of numbers, but all well chosen and all hugely impressive. And. By the time THAT song shows up near the end, we confidently predict nary a dry house in the house.
The film itself is a mixed bag at times (though always decent), but Zellweger’s performance is a titanic piece of work. All the other contenders should probably go home right around now.