Zellweger’s poise and presence make the entire affair more than worthwhile.
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Zellweger inhabits the role of the jaded, soul-searching musical icon reasonably well within a dreary and unremarkable saga that finds her grappling with her past, contending with pill-popping addictions and a broken family. It’s a familiar story that Judy struggles to freshen up, at least until Zellweger takes the mic.
Renee Zellweger gives the performance of her career in a film which is certainly an awards-friendly biopic, but strikes a darker, more maudlin note than expected.
Director Rupert Goold and resurgent star Renée Zellweger have pulled off something unusual and affecting in Judy: a biographical portrait in which performer and subject meet halfway, illuminating something of each other in the process.
Despite an imposing performance by Renée Zellweger, Judy never exposes the dark heart of Garland’s last years, creating an enjoyable backstage drama movie while failing to get under its protagonist’s skin.
I admire Zellwegger’s performance most of all for risking outright broadness, even badness, to chip away at the truths of the star’s persona. Frankly, it’s a performance that threatens to fly free of the movie enclosing it, which is well-made but not nearly as compulsively odd as its star.
Zellweger gives us a tribute to Judy Garland’s flair and to that ethos of the show needing to go on being both a burden and driving force. Yet Garland’s terrible sadness is mostly invisible.
Things as subtle as how Garland pronounces the word “wonderful” are not missed by the exacting Zellweger, who has brought the legend to vivid, full-color life. Even if she can’t quite match the beauty of that famous voice, Zellweger captures the spirit of how Garland sang.
Judy is three-quarters of a good movie that would have been even better if it trusted the urgency of the last act of Garland’s life — and the brilliance of Zellweger’s performance.
Sketchy it may be, but the film finds dreamy consolation in the final curtain.