I walked into a screening of the new film Judy knowing all that Judy Garland played Dorothy from the wizard of oz and that I thought she lived this incredibly glamourous lifestyle but I was very wrong. This film is all about the icon that is Judy Garland. It shows three time frames almost running in parallel but in different periods in her life namely her childhood, adulthood and stage life. It offers an honest and raw look into the showbiz industry and pulls the curtain on the often unseen backstage politics and goings-on.
The first section of her life is her early childhood where she did play the role of Dorothy from the wizard of oz. This is an iconic role that everyone would think is a young girls dream but the creative team working on this film revealed a dark side to childhood fame. It shows in detail how Judy just wanted to be a ‘normal girl’ but instead was guilted into filming constantly. The most shocking part of this period in her life was the fact that she was starved and fed only some sort of drug so she could be perfect for the camera, oftentimes this was done by her own mother. On top of this, the film hinted at some sort of sexual or physical ‘abuse’ committed on her by the director of one of her films which is a really controversial theme to show in this film. From me thinking she led a perfect and glamorous life to the horrific events of her young life, was incredibly shocking and at times difficult to watch but it goes to show that no one’s life is perfect and everyone has their own battles they have faced. As well as been enlightening this inclusion also helped ‘sow seeds’ for her older life choices.
In the later part of her life, the real-life Judy faced drug and alcohol addictions (which was obviously a result of the starvation and drugs she was fed as a child) which was again very difficult to watch. I am always surprised with the number of celebs who suffer from drug and alcohol addictions which has only come to light since these new biopics of famous celebrities have been created (eg Elton John’s and Freddie Mercury’s films have depicted similar scenes.) I think the point of this is to normalise drug use but not in the traditional sense. It aiming to show that these famous icons also suffer from addictions and they are not immune to the same problems the regular people are. Of course, I understand that these films are based on real-life and each person did, in fact, suffer from these problems in real life but the inclusion of this theme in the films does have a profound effect on the audience and humanises these larger than life personalities. This part of her life is driven by her desire to acquire more money so she can see her kids which again is a normal issue that normal piece face every day and so people in the audience can relate to this.
The on-stage version of Judy was, in my opinion, the most impactful. Despite all this abuse, addictions and personal issues she still managed to put on fantastic shows (most of the time.) I realise now what a fantastic and captivating performer Judy Garland was. The times when she was visibly weak and vulnerable on stage were the most heartbreaking. There were scenes where she collapsed on stage and lost control of her emotions but despite this, the audience is always on Judy’s side. I think this is because of all the ways the creative team aimed to make her relatable to the audience and so when things go wrong we are still wishing for things to go right for her eventually.
Two of the most important characters in this show were a gay couple called Stan and Dan (played by Andy Nyman and Daniel Cerqueira) who are avid supporters of Judy and watch her every show. Their inclusion is entirely fictional but is supposed to be a representation of Judy’s association with the LGBT community. Having this representation on a major film is fantastic and can only benefit this watching.
Obviously, the stand out performance in this show was Renee Zellwegger who played the titular character so perfectly. In this role, Renee looked exactly like Judy, acted out her mannerisms flawlessly and still managed to keep the pity of the audience which is a very difficult thing to do but Rennee managed to with no issue. Renee deserves at least an Oscar for this incredible portrayal of the character and I cannot wait to see her in her next role.
This is definitely a film for an older audience as it is somewhat slow and has very little action when compared to other biopics such as Rocketman for example. It’s not however boring or it doesn’t drag which shows the talent and skill of the team behind the film. The end of this film is impeccable. It was obvious from the beginning that the film would end with Judy singing ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ but what I didn’t expect was the stunned silence in the cinema that it would create. The entire theatre was plunged into complete silence as they processed everything they had watched which I had never experienced before.
Overall, this is an incredible film that lifts the curtain on Judy Garland’s life and some of the terrible things she endured. I would rate this film 4 and a half stars but I would say that I started the film only knowing a few facts about Judy but someone who lived through her rise to stardom would be even more affected by this honest and emotional film.