Found this something of a let-down, surprisingly. No complaints at all about Renee Zellwegger's towering titular performance, giving her all and much more - despite not owning the cherubic face of Judy Garland (which daughter Liza inherited), and with a singing voice, accomplished as it is, not sounding very much like who she was modelling it on. In fact if she was delivering a non-Garland song but in the same voice as she uses here, I doubt if many would guess whom she was imitating. But I repeat that her acting is extraordinary and should be worthy of awards nominations.
The film itself I thought clunky. The main thread is her 1968 series of concerts in the months before her death at just 47 in London at 'The Talk of the Town' venue, a very 'in' place as I remember (quite big but not vast) for celebrated names of the time to perform who were deemed to have sophistication and 'class'.
Judy G. ix disintegrating before our eyes, hideously dependant on pills and alcohol which, shown in numerous flashbacks, began way back as a teenager in her 'Wizard of Oz' days when she was chaperoned every minute, and persuaded and bullied into taking drugs as substitutes for eating and getting her natural sleep. Now in the lateness of her short life she's committed into delivering performances only for the money she needs, in a faraway place separated from the children she dotes on, and with a poor reliability as an effect of the pill-popping and drink she needs to prop her up - or sometimes cause her collapse on stage. Despite this aspect now being a better known story than it was at the time (I remember the news of her death shocking me - one of those 'I know where I was when I heard' moments) and its pathos, there is an element of predictability of how her decline is depicted here, her behaviour testing to the utmost the patience of those around her including impresario Bernard Delfont (Michael Gambon in a very slight role) and her English 'minder' (Jessie Buckley) who has to ensure she turns up for her scheduled performances. Much rolling of eyes skyward at her conduct. There are brief mentions of her previous marriages including the appearance of Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell) in a strained scene, as well as her final husband (Finn Whitrock) whom she married just months before her death.
At around midway through the film she bumps into a simpering gay couple waiting outside the stage door, the two of them skirting close to caricature, though if one is inclined to wince at their mince you should save it for the final scene when they turn up in the audience for what was to be Judy's final live performance - and climaxing into the most cringe-worthy moment I've seen on screen for some time. (I wonder if there was any element of truth behind this toe-curling event?)
This is director Rupert Goold's second cinema feature, his first being the lukewarmly received 'True Story' of 2015. I have doubts whether this current film will do him any long-lasting favours though I have to say that it is getting glowing reviews in a number of quarters, so I could well be out on a limb yet again.
Two more points which some may dismiss as irrelevant. Does the film's overwhelmingly British pedigree (it's a project of 'BBC Films') including much of the casting, work against the essential American element of the story? And secondly, the film's title seems to infer a wider overview of Garland's life rather than the narrow time-frame of solely the months shortly before her demise - though admittedly with several retrospective explanations of the early causes of her adult problems. Maybe it should have been entitled 'Judy - the final concerts'?
Were it not for Renee Z's exceptional central performance I'd rate this film significantly lower than I've actually allowed it. If anyone of lesser talent had attempted the portrayal and come unstuck the whole film would have sunk, but thanks to her it manifestly does not. She carries it off with considerable aplomb and confidence so all credit is due to her, she being the single most positive attribute of what I saw as a borderline lacklustre film............6.
(IMDb..............7.0 - Rott.Toms............4.4/5)
1 hour ago