By Pat Mullen
The forecast for 2020 predicts the gayest Oscars yet. After Taron Egerton wowed us as Elton John in Rocketman, Renée Zellweger delivers a note-perfect performance as Judy Garland in Judy. Wager good money on the stars taking home matching Oscars for portraying these queer icons.
Judy is Zellweger’s comeback. After being the “it girl” of the early 2000s with hits like Bridget Jones’s Diary, Chicago, and Cold Mountain, Zellweger’s stock vanished. Star persona and performance blur in this portrait of an actor struggling to understand her purpose when the spotlight’s gone. Zellweger is heartbreakingly good in realizing Garland’s vulnerability.
Judy focuses on the final year of Garland’s life. At 46, roughly Zellweger’s age during her slump, Garland is off to London for a string of concerts. Broke, blacklisted, and fighting a custody battle, Garland is at rock bottom offering show-stopping numbers one night and drunken embarrassments the next.
Flashbacks to Garland’s work on The Wizard of Oz, toiling under the tyrannical and controlling producer Louis B. Mayer, the film portrays Garland as a woman who was never allowed to control her own life. But where Garland’s pain was overcome by alcoholism and drug abuse, Zellweger channels her agony and loneliness into life-saving, transformative art.
Using her trademark pouty lips and sad, shimmering eyes, Zellweger doesn’t disappear within the character. While her resemblance to Garland is uncanny, this is very much a Renée Zellweger performance. It pays tribute to an icon while reminding us of another’s worth.
It’s not all pain and heartache, though. Judy rings with the joie de vivre that continues to endear Garland to audiences. Zellweger performs Garland’s signature tunes in knockout numbers. Recording all the songs live, Zellweger’s vocals capture Garland at her highest and lowest. A star is reborn with Zellweger’s career-best performance in Judy.
Judy, Judy Garland, Renée Zellweger