JUDY – Review by Susan Granger

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Renee Zellweger is dazzling as Judy Garland! With Oscar-caliber dexterity, she captures the tragic strength and vulnerability of the legendary singer – her wit and warmth, along with the charismatic emotionality of her voice.

Based on Peter Quilter’s play “End of the Rainbow” and adapted by screenwriter Tom Edge, Robert Goold’s sad film focuses on fragile Judy’s final London concerts before her death by overdose in 1969 at age 47.

By that time, she has already yielded to perpetual substance abuse, so it’s not a pretty picture.

Financially forced to leave her two young children (Lorna, Joey) with their father, Sid Luft (Rufus Sewell), notoriously unpredictable Judy accepts a series of dates at the Talk of the Town nightclub in London, where, out of loneliness, she marries her fifth husband, young pianist, Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock).

There are spellbinding glimpses of Zellweger on-stage as Judy, poignantly singing “You Made Me Love You,” “The Trolley Song,” “By Myself,” “For Once in My Life,” “Come Rain or Come Shine” and “Over the Rainbow.”

Gaunt and haggard, Zellweger’s world-weary songbird is broken, and stylized flashbacks reveal why.

As eager Frances Gumm (Darci Shaw), her life was totally controlled by tyrannical M.G.M. mogul Louis B. Mayer (Richard Cordery), who dictated what she could/could not eat, whom she could date and when the fake ‘photo op’ for her 16th birthday would occur.

Ultimately, it’s a tragedy, chronicling how a talented teenager was abused and exploited, tormented to seek affection and approval from strangers in order to feel any self-worth. A quote from “Oz” author L. Frank Baum notes: “A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.”

As a cinematic chameleon, Renee Zellweger has progressed from a lovable ingénue (“Jerry Maguire”) to romantic comedy (“Bridget Jones”), musical star (“Chicago”), twangy Southern farmer (“Cold Mountain”), sinister tech mogul (Netflix’s “What/If”) and now iconic Judy Garland.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Judy” is an erratic, yet empathetic 8, marking the 50th anniversary of her death.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.