CREDIT: David Hindley/Courtesy of LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions

Starring: Renée Zellweger, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley, Richard Cordery, Darci Shaw

Director: Rupert Goold

Running Time: 118 Minutes

Rating: PG-13, Mainly for the Substance Abuse

Release Date: September 27, 2019 (Limited)

Of all the tragedies that Judy Garland endured in her life, perhaps the most visceral one that we get to witness in the biopic Judy is when she is strictly forbidden from eating a burger at a diner while she’s a teenager under the iron fist of MGM co-founder Louis B. Mayer. It’s far from the most abusive trauma she ever experienced, and burgers certainly aren’t the most healthy indulgence. But that little bit of rebellion that is chomping on junk food is just the point. This moment is a microcosm representing just how thoroughly Garland’s life was not her own. Judy is driven by that unstable foundation, but it rarely says anything revelatory beyond, “Here’s how this child star was mistreated, and here’s how it still echoes in her life decades later.”

Screenwriter Tom Edge and director Rupert Goold follow the tack of recent showbiz biopics like Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Stan & Ollie by presenting with their subject long after the height of fame when they happen to find themselves in England. It’s 1969. Garland’s most iconic films came out a generation ago, but she’s still mighty beloved. Thus, plenty of people want to see her when her financial reality forces her to temporarily leave her young kids behind in California while she books some live gigs in London. As the adult Judy, Renée Zellweger is a natural fit to convey the constant agony that comes with struggling in the public eye. It’s a fine performance, but one that rarely transcends the standard biopic structure (save for the showstopping number she delivers in the final scene). Judy is a valuable cautionary tale; I just wish it had delivered that note of caution more uniquely.

Judy is Recommended If You Like: You Must Remember This, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Somewheres Over the Rainbow

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