I am potentially doing four posts today so I plan on keeping each of them brief. I will be gone for a week or so and I want these to be fresh for anyone who is interested.
Biopics can be hit or miss. The personality of the subject may be the biggest factor in their success, but you should never underestimate the importance of casting and performance. J.Edgar Hoover and Dick Cheney did not get a proper treatment, one because of miscasting and the other due to the script. I’ve seen some criticism of this movie as being uninspiring, but I think it works the way a lot of these biopics do, by focusing on a particular point in the subject’s life. Darkest Hour and Lincoln both did that and succeed, I think for the most part Judy accomplishes it’s task in the same way.
The film focus is on the period of time she was performing in London, less than half a year away from her death. There are a few flashback sequences, but the main story is set near the end of her life. I made a comparison that might seem a bit strange when I was talking about this film, it reminded me of “Joker”. The subject is the emotional and mental breakdown of of our subject. The childhood abuses in both stories are mentioned, but the real tragedy is the self destructive behavior that each is unable to extract themselves from. The audience will be frustrated by the wrong turn that the character makes and that is where we will feel the most emotional connection to the film.
Renée Zellweger is well cast with the kwepie doll face and diminutive stature. She nails Garlands voice and as far as I could tell, many of her mannerisms. The vocal performances are also very impressive. She is not recreating the original versions of the songs, but how those songs might have sounded at this stage of Garland’s life and her physical stamina. I think come awards time her name will be prominently featured. I hope along that of her costar here Jessie Buckley, who turned in my favorite performance this year in “Wild Rose“. That the two of them appear in this movie together is kind of a treat.
There may be things in the film that are not historically accurate but the movie feels emotionally accurate. The main performance is enough to recommend it but I think there is more than just the performance, it is a well crafted story of talent and self destruction. Probably a well worn path at this point in pop culture.