Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of JUDY Starring Renee Zellweger?
Renée Zellweger stars as Judy Garland in the upcoming film JUDY. The film takes place in Winter 1968 and showbiz legend Judy Garland arrives in Swinging London to perform a five-week sold-out run at THE TALK of the Town. It is 30 years since she shot to global stardom in The Wizard of Oz, but if her voice has weakened, its dramatic intensity has only grown. As she prepares for the show, battles with management, charms musicians and reminisces with friends and adoring fans, her wit and warmth shine through. Even her dreams of love seem undimmed as she embarks on a whirlwind romance with Mickey Deans, her soon-to-be fifth husband.
Featuring some of her best-known songs, the film celebrates the voice, the capacity for love, and the sheer pizzazz of "the world's greatest entertainer."
Find out what critics thought of the film below!
Guy Lodge, Variety:
Set in the final year before Garland's death in 1969, "Judy" covers the shambolic London concert residency that was never supposed to be her last hurrah. Zellweger offers an all-singing, all-dancing, all-collapsing performance of the star at her lowest physical and psychological ebb: It's gutsy, can't-look-away work, yet it might not enthrall those who evaluate biopic turns as Olympian feats of technical mimicry. With the help of some expert makeup, hairstyling and costuming, her inhabitation of Garland is persuasive without being exhaustive; it's a very different feat from the eerie, brilliant channeling that Judy Davis achieved to Emmy-winning effect in the 2003 miniseries "Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows."
Stephen Farber: The Hollywood Reporter:
Impersonating an icon is a dangerous business, but Renee Zellweger accomplishes the feat in Judy, a look at the last year in the life of Judy Garland. Since this year is the 50th anniversary of her death, an event that precipitated the Stonewall riots in the summer of 1969, the filmmakers undoubtedly recognized that they had a built-in marketing angle, in addition to the enduring appeal of Garland's name and music. Director Rupert Goold's movie sometimes stumbles, but it made one indispensable choice in finding the right actress to channel the diva. This is not the first biopic about Garland. Judy Davis gave an extraordinary interpretation in a TV miniseries almost two decades ago, but in that case, Davis lip-synced to Garland's original recordings. Since Judy takes place during Garland's final London performances in the winter of 1968, when her voice was not at its best, Zellweger performed the songs herself, and she does a remarkable job without trying to match Garland at the peak of her vocal powers.
Mara Reinstein, Billboard:
There's also a measure of suspense in hearing Zellweger flex her vocal chops. We don't hear her sing until the 45-minute mark, a shrewd decision on Goold's part. It takes a few extra beats to adjust to the sight of the onetime Bridget Jonesportraying the iconic entertainer. (The actress can't quite shake her Texas drawl; Garland, nee Frances Gumm, was a native Midwesterner.) When she finally opens her first London show by belting out "By Myself," it's a cross between a pleasant surprise and a revelation. Zellweger, a best actress Oscar nominee for 2002's Chicago, handily pulls off the singing and dancing in the sequined pantsuits yet never overdoes the razzle-dazzle.
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian:
Zellweger rises resolutely to the challenge of playing Judy on stage and off: her eyes crinkle in tandem with a tremulous pout when her feelings are hurt, and sometimes when they are the opposite of hurt, although she is perhaps less convincing with the wide-eyed Garland gaze. Her walk and stance cleverly convey the sense of someone who is only in her 40s but feels older, but is rejuvenated by the electric thrill of being on stage. Yet the movie missed a trick in the way it depicted the difficult relationship with her daughter Liza Minnelli (played here by Gemma-Leah Devereux): there is one low-key meeting between them at a party in which Judy undermines Liza's confidence, but it is underpowered. Liza herself deserves almost as much mythologising and turbocharged drama as Judy, and a mother-daughter encounter between these icons should really be a showstopper.
Sasha Stone, The Wrap:
Zellweger captures Garland's frail and slightly twitchy body, her voice, her look and mannerisms. Things as subtle as how Garland pronounces the word "wonderful" are not missed by the exacting Zellweger, who has brought the legend to vivid, full-color life. Even if she can't quite match the beauty of that famous voice, Zellweger captures the spirit of how Garland sang.
Eric Kohn, IndieWire:
In her first musical turn since "Chicago," she [Zellweger] sings live, and does such an uncanny job of channeling Garland's performative strengths that she's practically communing with Garland's ghost. Yet all of that power and credibility collapses whenever "Judy" returns to the airless melodrama that afflicts the rest of the plot: Yes, Garland's inability to retain custody of her children is another sad development in her downward spiral, and drunken meltdowns set the stage for her demise. But in "Judy," they come across like placeholders to keep the story moving along.
K. Austin Collins, Vanity Fair:
Judy isn't visionary or perfect, but it convinces us of its ideas-and it's a fine scaffolding for Zellwegger, already a potential awards contender for reasons that seem obvious. What I hope doesn't get lost in the inevitable awards melee-with the way it flattens films and actors into worthy or not, "likely" or not-is a sense of how utterly idiosyncratic Zellwegger's performance is. By the end of the movie, I wanted more of Judy herself; I ran straight to Youtube to watch interviews with the erstwhile Dorothy herself. And I also wanted more of Zellwegger: more performance, more strangeness, more of the stuff that makes a star a star, with none of the pain that can come with it.