Judy the biopic of the last year of Judy Garland’s life, moves on the strength of Renee Zellweger’s uncanny performance as Judy Garland. A child star, Judy Garland was sensitive and gullible. Unfortunately, she was left to the vicissitudes of the Hollywood studio system without protections from its abusive and overbearing studio bosses. She never recovered.
Perhaps because Garland is such a well-known Hollywood figure, the movie Judy spends little time delving into the magnificence of her life as one of the most bankable movie stars in the 1940s and 1950s. She reportedly had two abortions because they weren’t “studio approved” pregnancies.
Instead, the movie chronicles the last year of her life after a lifetime of abuse and exploitation. But most of this conflict is backstory to her final year, which is the subject of the movie Judy.
Unfortunately, as a result, “Judy” moves slowly with strikingly little tension for such a tragic figure in pop culture.
Most people watching Judy already know the end — an extraordinary talent and life cut tragically short. The movie tries to build this conflict in through her struggles to keep custody of her children, take back control over her career, and wrestle with drug and alcohol abuse. In the end, however, the result is the same: Judy Garland died at just 47 years old by an accidental overdose thousands of miles away from her children.
Garland’s story is one of lost youth, exploitation, and her inability to recover as an adult. Her story had parallels with contemporary problems and struggles of celebrity culture. Instead, Judy seems to be content as a chronicle of Garland’s struggles in her last year and recount her last hurrah of one of Hollywood’s greats.
Judy Garland fans will also find Judy a fitting tribute to a tortured soul who tried to do her best to turn things around, but ultimately failed. Zellweger’s performance also represents an outstanding performance, perhaps even a career defining role. For these reasons alone, many people will find “Judy” worthwhile.
Update: Renee Zellweger won Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama at the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards in 2020.