In Rupert Goold’s Judy, we have finally got to that somewhere over the rainbow, where Renée Zellweger takes the central stage in portraying the faded actress, Judy Garland, to showcase her return to prominence since her come-back in 2016. It’s a deeply moving story as the faded star struggles with the opposite of fame and the dwindled health. While the narrative offers so much more than it’s intended to be, in the end, it’s Zellweger’s performance which keeps it under character-study corridor.
Judy Garland in her late forties is amidst a surreal, ironic situation where she’s rendered penniless even when awhile ago, we are shown to the discussion about her singing talent at her young age. In a series of flashbacks, we learn that, as a teen, Judy was abused and driven up for unrelenting workloads. The abuse takes its toll during her faded years. As America no longer becomes a harvest ground for her, she takes the job offer in London. Away from her children, she’s caged to make ends meet in Britain. It’s exasperating to watch; but, it’s deeply moving how Judy’s eagerness to keep on hoping gives her the spark.
Zellweger captures the sparks perfectly. Her acting is full of wit and, even, when you are not familiar with the persona of Judy Garland, you’ll learn right away. There’s the relentless suffering which the actress emanates to the audiences through sighs and glazed gaze; but, they root from Zellweger’s sincere acting rather than from the make-up and hairdo that do the job amazingly. Goold’s attention to the actress might divert the focus from the plot which might go on from some narrative bursts to musical numbers.
Adapted from Peter Quilter’s Broadway play, The End of the Rainbow, the whole arc that Judy takes is an unusual biopic perspective. The story is like a tug of war between remorse and hope, but it’s nothing as compelling as Zellweger’s all-out performance to portray it. The irony is thick in the air, and when Judy, at the center of the stage, asks the audience whether they will forget her, it’s very sentimental. It’s the sucker-punch of Judy, lying at the very end of the narrative mess patched by the leading actress’ showmanship.