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Renee Zellweger's performance in Judy is the final nail in Hollywood’s coffin.

Judy is not a movie that oozes glitz and glamour, but then again neither did the real life of the iconic Judy Garland.

This new big-screen offering does not attempt to weave any kind of innocent or starry-eyed narrative around the life and career of The Wizard of Oz actress, and instead of playing out like a straight biopic it focuses in on a moment in time at the end of Judy’s life.

A time when her voice is broken, her bank account is empty and she leaves her children behind in the US so she can perform a series of sold-out concerts in London in 1968.

The movie doubles down on highlighting exactly what these concerts were for the legendary actress, a last-ditch effort to make enough money for Judy to finally settle down with her two young children. These performances would turn out to be her final time gracing the stage, as she passed away soon after.

Watch Renee Zellweger in the trailer for Judy. Post continues after video. 

The movie opens with a younger version of Judy (played by Darci Shaw) on the magical-looking set of The Wizard of Oz where Hollywood studio head Louis B. Mayer (Richard Cordery) is towering over the young actress while lecturing her about how she didn’t earn the part of Dorothy because she’s prettier than other girls or smarter or more charming, it’s simply that she has a good voice.

There are many troubling scenes like this peppered throughout the film, scenes that depict a young Judy Garland being abused by the showbusiness heads who controlled her life. In these flashbacks, we see her denied food, given drugs to pep her up and then even more pills to knock her out while the men who make money off her also subject her to sexual abuse.

And while these moments in the film, all of which have been chronicled in books and interviews over the years and really did take place, do provide a wealth of background to explain the torment suffered by the star, the real grit of the film takes place on a series of smaller set pieces during her later London days.

The power of these scenes can be traced directly to the expert casting and character realisation of actress Renee Zellweger, who never attempts to mimic Judy or pass her off as merely a caricature of a woman the whole world thought they knew.

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Listen to Laura Brodnik and Kee Reece talk about the most surprising moment in Judy and their surprise run-in with Renee Zellweger at the Australian premiere on The Spill.

During an appearance at the Sydney premiere of Judy, Renee talked about the depths of study and practice she went through in order to contort herself in Judy, everything from altering her speaking voice to utilising some of Garland’s famous facial ticks and even walking like her around the film’s set.

In fact, the gorgeous outfits worn by Renee in Judy were constructed by the film’s costume designer Jany Temime so that they only fit right when Zellweger hunched over as Garland famously did at this stage of her life when performing.

Judy does stick pretty close to the actual events that happened in the actress’s life while in London, from her hectic and short-lived marriage to Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock) and her emotional breakdowns on stage but there is one story thread in the film that was completely fabricated.

In the movie, gay couple Dan (Andy Nyman) and Stan (Daniel Cerqueira) are the only fans waiting outside the stage door for Judy after one of her concerts. They had scavenged up as many tickets as they could to see her perform again and again during her London run. Judy, who at this moment is feeling completely lost and alone, absolutely floors the star-struck couple when she asks if she can join them for dinner.

The scenes with Dan and Stan lead to some of the most emotional moments in Judy, but, as I’m sure fans will discover once they eagerly start Googling the characters as they leave the cinema, they never actually existed.

They were written into the script to represent how much the late singer meant to her LGBTQ+ fans at that time and it’s a storytelling device that works extremely well within the retelling of her life.

Judy is a movie that may lag and meander at certain times but what it does well is build up to a rousing and goosebump-inducing final musical moment.

Even if you are not a longtime fan of Judy Garland, I dare you not to be moved to tears by Renee Zellweger’s breathtaking rendition of  ‘I’ll Go My Way by Myself’ and then finally the heartbreaking performance of ‘Over the Rainbow’.

Renee Zellweger’s performance in Judy feels very much like the final nail in old Hollywood’s coffin. A time once thought glamorous and enticing now very much looks painful and ugly when looked at through the lens of Garland’s life.

Judy is now playing in cinemas Australia-wide. It is rated M.


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