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MATTHEW LIEDKE ON FILM: Zellweger powers fairly standard biopic in 'Judy'

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Tinseltown has always seemed like a glamorous place, but for too many stars, Hollywood has been a destructive place for performers. Judy Garland, unfortunately, was one of those individuals.

The film "Judy," starring Renee Zellweger as the famous actress, picks up in the final year of her life. Far removed from both her fame from "The Wizard of Oz," as well as having endured financial mismanagement by her partners and failed marriages, Garland is shown in a tough, vulnerable position.

The audience learns in the first act that Garland is in the midst of a custody issue with her two youngest children. Because of her struggles, her children are staying with their father. To earn enough money to buy a home and start a new life with the ability to see her children again, Garland accepts a job working at a theater in London.

Garland is originally from Grand Rapids, a city just two hours drive south of my hometown and 70 miles east of where I'm sitting right now. Her connection to Minnesota gives her and the movie another level of connection for those familiar with her humble upbringing. However, the tragic final months of her life captured here are compelling regardless of where you're from.

"Judy" portrays Garland already in a downward spiral, dealing with financial struggles and addiction. In relation to both, the movie shows just how lacking studios were in providing safety nets for their stars who made them millions.


The real tragedy of the movie, though, is seeing how Garland was still a star talent. Despite having been dimmed by a difficult childhood and people who took advantage of her abilities, her talent shines through, thanks to Zellweger's work.

Unfortunately, "Judy" is somewhat lacking in its directing and writing elements. The movie's dialogue feels shallow and generic at times, which end up working against Zellweger's passionate performance.

The direction and cinematography also comes across as flat and conventional, lacking in artistic flair. It unfortunately pales in comparison to other more memorizing biopics, such as 2016's "Jackie" with Natalie Portman.

Still, Zellweger is still a force to be reckoned with on screen and her work here should earn her some hardware or at least nominations during awards season. She portrays Garland's struggles, her egotism, and ultimately her tragedy quite well. This is especially true in the movie's final 20 minutes.

Credit also has to go to Darci Shaw, who portrayed Garland during her time on movie sets, such as "Oz." Shaw gives more a performance offering great insight into how Garland was mistreated by the studio system.

Overall, "Judy" is a mostly straightforward biopic but the movie is still worth watching because of the moments in Garland's life it captures and a fine performance from Zellweger. 3.5 out of 5.

Related Topics: MOVIES
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