Here's our review of Judy on Blu-ray, featuring an Oscar-caliber performance by Renee Zellweger!
Judy Garland’s legendary performances in London in 1968, in the midst of a personal crisis, is the focus of this docudrama. Also stars Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, and Michael Gambon. Screenplay by Tom Edge. Directed by Rupert Goold.
Judy is an entertaining, but at times uneven, snapshot of Judy Garland as she neared the end of her short, tragic life. It often meanders in its attempt to honestly portray a woman caught in the trap of substance abuse while fighting her personal demons. While at times provocative, it often pulls its punches in order to be kinder and reverential to the iconic entertainer.
What faults the film may have, however, it more than compensates with an Oscar-caliber performance from Renee Zellweger. Not only does she do all her own singing, Zellweger captures - on an uncanny level - Garland’s mannerisms and unique speech patterns. It’s a spellbinding performance, and at the time of this review, it had already earned Zellweger a number of much-deserved nominations and awards.
Set in 1968, just a few months before her death, the film follows Garland as she performs at London’s Talk of the Town for five weeks of sold-out shows. As she struggles with sobriety, Garland sees her personal life falling apart, even as she finds a new husband. It is in this context that Zellweger excels, perfectly channeling Garland’s persona while balancing scenes of show-stopping singing performances and personal dramatics.
The film opens with the revelation that Garland struggled to keep a roof over her head, after years of poor business decisions and erratic behavior. For most of the film, Garland’s personal issues are laid bare, as years of self-medication left her mental state in tatters. It’s likely why the film veers into a subplot involving Garland’s friendship with two fans in London. While it allows for Zellweger to explore Garland’s personal side, it seems to derail the narrative.
The film tries to end on a positive note, which is understandable given the real-life circumstances. It does allow director Goold to give the audience a touching moment, and Zellweger puts a bittersweet bow on her gift of a performance.
Both Jessie Buckley and Finn Wittrock are both very good as Rosalyn Wilder (Garland’s handler in London) and Mickey Deans (her fifth and final husband), respectively. They both provide a nexus of sorts for Zellweger to explore and define Garland’s dysfunctional relationships, and you’ll wish there was more of that.
On the whole, Judy as a film doesn’t deliver the knockout punch you would expect or hope for. Had Goold and screenwriter Tom Edge (who based his work on Peter Quilter’s play) dared to explore the darker aspects of Garland’s decline, it would have been a devastating viewing experience.
However, Zellweger’s performance on the whole is so remarkable, it elevates the film into something truly special. While it may not be the most flattering of tributes, her portrayal of the faults and complexities of Judy Garland are both captivating and heartbreaking. It humanizes the icon in a way you would not expect, while still giving an air of reverence to her entertainment legacy. That is perhaps the most fitting tribute of all.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The high definition transfer is excellent, providing the deep, rich color reproduction that cinematographer Ole Bratt Birkeland used to recreate the world of 1960s London. The colors provide nice pop, and the detail highlights the textures of the fashion in an almost dreamlike state.
However, this is one of the few times in which a great picture is a bit of a drawback. Judy could have used a bit of grain in the image to give it a vintage aesthetic. The colors, the set design, and the cinematography are all on point. However, this still looks like a modern film. The Wizard of Oz flashback scenes (though they do well to tell the film’s story) are filmed a bit soft, but needed a sheen to displace it visually from the rest of the film.
The Blu-ray sports a fantastic 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, which showcases the concert scenes with the proper clarity and an enveloping surround effect. If you have a proper audio set-up, you’ll thoroughly enjoy it.
The bonus features are a bit of an afterthought. Sadly, we don’t get much detail in Zellweger’s preparation to play the role. There’s also no vintage footage of Garland performances or interviews, or any clips from her films. There’s no additional information about her background, to provide supporting context for the film. Viewers will undoubtedly want to know more about Garland’s life, and not including anything here is a big oversight.
The special features on the Blu-ray are as follows.
“From the Heart: The Making of Judy” featurette. Renee Zellweger and members of the cast discuss the film. Even more impressive, the real Rosalyn Wilder appears in the featurette to provide some insight. I wished the featurette were longer, particularly where it could have explored Zellweger’s preparation and performance, which reportedly included a year of training to sing like Garland. Running Time: 4:05
Judy Image Gallery. Twelve stills (from the film and behind the camera) and the poster artwork are shown in a slideshow format. Running Time: 1:17
Theatrical Trailer. The film’s original trailer is included. Running Time: 1:13
Lionsgate Trailers. Trailers for the films Juliet Naked, The Peanut Butter Falcon, Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love, and Whitney are included. Running Time: 9:36
Digital Copy. A code for a digital copy of the film, available through streaming services including iTunes, VUDU, and FandangoNow, is included.
- Release Date: 12/24/2019
- Running Time: 119 minutes
- Rating: PG-13
- Aspect Ratio: 2.35
- Audio: English 5.1 DTS HD-MA
- Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
- Special Features: “From the Heart: The Making of Judy” featurette; “Judy” Image Gallery; Theatrical Trailer; Lionsgate Trailers; Digital Copy.
- Label: Lionsgate
- MSRP: $39.99 (Blu-ray); $29.95 (DVD)