Chew's Reviews - Judy

By Gary Chew |  

Seeing JUDY ... for me … was epiphanicIt might not go exactly that way for you watching a totally re-booted René Zellweger allowing herself to be subsumed by a physical and mythical person known as Frances Ethel Gumm of Grand Rapids, Minnesota. I should elaborate on that though:

I've never been a fan of Ms. Zellweger's. I'm neither appreciative of Judy Garland's voice nor even how she did a song. Yet somehow, Rupert Goold, director of this well-crafted bio pic, has brought me over --- a little. So maybe: a measured epiphany it was?

The film's predicate --- how early fame in a person's life should not be something to wish for --- is a thing we've seen and heard about before. That doesn't lessen the “quality” of how well JUDY hits you right between the eyes. Bringing off that task is primarily accomplished by the actor doing the title role. Surely, to paraphrase what others have noted about many stellar screen performances, René Zellweger is Judy Garland ... down to her eye rolls and brow twitches.

Scenes that depict Garland singing, for me, are done by a person (repeating: for me) who sings better than Judy did. I'm not trying to be nasty about this. My reason is: I want you to know how effectively Goold's film has pushed me past piddling dislikes to appreciation for both women and the picture.

Tom Edge's adapted screenplay comes from Peter Quilter's play with the “Ozish-sounding” title, END OF THE RAINBOW. (Maybe that should be the “Harburgish-sounding” title.) With excellence, the moving plot, set in late 1960s London, is interrupted with occasional, brief flashbacks of Garland's girlhood, when she (Darci Shaw) is being verbally abused and cajoled by Garland's mother (Natasha Powell) and Louis B. Mayer (Richard Cordery) the legendary co-founder/producer of MGM. Nuanced moments between a young Garland and Mayer are unsettling as he dresses her down near movie sets that you'll find familiar.

Most amazing for me about JUDY is that: it's Zellwegger singing Garland's unforgettable hits on the soundtrack. At first hearing, I didn't know that; and now am totally bowled over by the fact. But to all you Garland singer fans, I think Zellweger sings better than Garland did. (Please don't say bad things about me, I have to add this to the commentary.) I've read that recordings of some of those songs sung by Zellweger are becoming available as the film opens. Maybe I'll play some of them on my record show on KDRT in Davis. ( They'll fit well on my Third Stream program of music.

Irony runs deep through all of this: Garland on top of the world as a young actress and singer back in those golden OZ days; insurmountable issues arising in her life with depression and how to stay tight with her children while on the road making a living in order to be with them…not mentioning the string of spouses and men in her life while always carrying, since childhood (“thanks” to Mom), a monkey-fied pill 'n' booze addiction on her aching back.

Zellweger recently bowed out of making movies for a while, but now roars back with a rather true-to- the-fact London-experience-film chronicling the fabulous Garland prior to Judy's accidental overdosing demise at 47, about six months after kicking her new Brit nightclub audiences' butts with that amazing Garland on-stage energy unbelievably held together by one of show biz's most vulnerable women.

All the best to Ms. Zellweger. An Oscar or even a nomination would be grand for her, I think. I really enjoy hearing René sing. You'll love how she closes out with “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”

                                                              Copyright © 2019 by Gary Chew. All rights reserved.


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