Renee Zellweger (Bridget Jones’ Baby) does more than posturing (which she does really well) in a late career biopic of a Hollywood legend adapted from the stage presentation of End of the Rainbow. One with little on the prosthetic side with plenty of hairspray and old-fashioned, colorful pantsuits.
Judy (from London theater director Rupert Goold who made True Story) wisely truncates the tumultuous life of the revered figure who graced her presence in The Wizard of OZ (1939) and A Star is Born (1954).
Zellweger manages a dedicated, shattering turn that internalizes the wounds of a woman thrashing about who wouldn’t live to see her fiftieth birthday. In pungent timing and with especially when how she responds to her emotional condition. Garland’s pill-popping, alcohol-swirling ways have labeled her as “difficult” (read blacklisted from appearing on celluloid) in the winter of 1968 moving from club to club accompanied by her two young children.
A disorientation is evident of an eking-out woman sued for custody by an ex-husband (Rufus Sewell), as the kids are worn out from traversing many a hotel. The actress who won an Oscar for her lively supporting turn in the Cold War drama Cold Mountain opposite Nicole Kidman and Jude Law possesses a distinctive look that bears an uncanny resemblance to Garland.
A godsend in a way is a request for a London nightclub occupancy when it comes to finances and housing. An Upsetting sequence that is notable takes place outside her stage door.
If the background doesn’t stick with the later present with Zellweger etching many a heart rending moment including vintage Garland pieces especially “Over The Rainbow” a standard genre example still smartly does more than check all the boxes. Exasperated, long suffering handler Rosalyn Wilder offers Jessie Buckley more opportunity to show off her craft (a find in Wild Rose of late) and Finn Wittrock (The Big Short and La La Land) endows musician Mickey Deans (who’d be Garland’s fifth hubby a bit of a flair.
Judy is a bracing, if uncomfortable cinematic experience because in part of how it resonates in our times in an industry with its share of black marks.