With Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland, you can not only feel her and see her, but you forget Zellweger is even there at all. Like many great performances, you see the character and forget that there is even an actor. Watching her performance is like watching a cosmic display. Some things are just meant to happen.
There have been many so-so bio-pics as of late, most comparably Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, in which another great actress, Benning, portrays the troubled last days of another great actress, Graham. Comparably, Zellweger’s performance outshines the more renowned Benning. By contrast, Liverpool is also jaggedly uneven. That’s not to say that Judy is perfect. Music bios are tough. Rami supposedly was great in Bohemian Rhapsody, but the film encompassed a superficial sentiment and lacked intellectual curiosity. Control, the Joy Division piece, is maybe the best in recent years… But Judy is right up there.
The story covers her last gig in London. The film uses flashbacks in order for the audience to understand her character. While most of those around her only see a washed up star, who was just forty seven.
What the story lacks in structure, it makes up with warmth. While this is a softer portrait, it still feels authentic. It finds no purpose in portraying her issues with callousness. Instead the narrative depends on Garland trying to understand herself, while making poor choice after poor choice. If you know anything about Garland, you know where she is going… But what you may not know, is she how she arrived there. It is a deeply sentimental portrait of a brilliant mind and troubled heart.
There have been some cynics saying that “Only a fool would try to play Garland.” Dare, I say, Zellweger just made a fool out of you.