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Judy (2019) Review

There is certainly a good performance here, but its held back by a convoluted plot!

by Ian Morton

Judy is an account of famed movie star, Judy Garland during her final London residency in 1969. Running out of money and on the brink of losing her children, the once shining star of Hollywood is forced to swap Tinseltown for ‘Talk of the Town’, a famous nightclub in the Westend of the city, in hopes to gain back all that has slipped away.

Adapted from the play ‘End of the Rainbow’, its clear to see that the foundations of the film come from the theatre but it ultimately struggles when trying to do anything cinematic. Whether peering around the backstage areas of Talk of the Town or flashing back to Judy’s past, it’s the more intimate scenes where the film shines most. Outside of these moments, however, the film is rarely able to keep itself together. The on-stage set pieces are structured terribly, the musical numbers so obviously manufactured, that it feels more like Ashleigh Simpson’s lip sync fiasco than that of one of the great on screen performers. Given the fact that these scenes are just as important as those littler moments, it makes the film feel disjointed as a result.

Taking the role of the titular character is Renée Zellweger with a turn that has proved quite divisive among critics. In agreement with the films initial reviews, there is certainly no doubt that this is one of the strongest performances in the actresses back catalogue of work – every twitch captures a reaction, every retort timed to perfection, even the scenes showing Judy at her lowest are ones the actress clearly revels in. 

The problem however is that while strong in execution, it’s a performance that can only ever go as far as the script allows it to. Lacking any real focus, the film tries to equally pay homage to the actress while at the same time highlighting the events that plagued her life; drugs, marriages, abuse, studio pressure, being a child star, bankruptcy, broken families, the pressures of being an icon – there is so much that by the time you get to the end, the takeaway message is so diluted in a quagmire of interweaving factors, that it’s hard to really know what the film is trying to achieve.

The most remarkable thing about Judy is ultimately just how unremarkable it is! Hiding somewhere within the disjointed narrative is an important story, just one that never really finds footing. More a low budget docu-drama than insightful biopic!

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