This is an expected depressing story dominated by the performance Renée Zellweger as the legendary Judy Garland.
As most of you know, Judy Garland became trapped in the Hollywood exhaust pipe that resulted in her death at the age of 47. Addicted to various pills provided to her as a teenager by the MGM studios, she eventually embraced alcohol in the hopes of discovering a bit of joy in her life. As a tragic consequence, Dorothy was poisoned by the Wicked Witch of the West.
The Wizard of Oz, released in 1939, remains one of the most popular films in history. Joining forces with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Lion, Dorothy fought to find a way to return to her loved ones in Kansas. Ironically, in real life Ms. Garland was never able to leave the yellow brick road.
Renée Zellweger resurfaces after a six-year absence from the big screen in a remarkably stunning role as Ms. Garland in her last year of life. Broke and with nowhere to live with her two minor children, she was forced to leave them with an uncooperative ex-husband as she set off for England to try and reawaken her career.
Ms. Zellweger literally becomes Judy Garland as she performs sold out shows at the Talk of the Town night club. Doing her own singing, Ms. Zellweger gives an Oscar worthy performance as a woman whose addictions kept her from sleeping forcing her to appear on stage with a hangover that left her giving some utterly rude and foul performances.
Flashing back occasionally to her childhood in Hollywood where she was required to take pills instead of eating to watch her weight, you also see her under the control of Louis B. Mayer (Richard Cordery), the head of MGM who did not hesitate to use a “hands on” approach with his young female stars. In the process, it wasn’t hard to see her unfortunate demise as a relatively young woman.
Though Michael Gambon was given little to do as the Talk of the Town owner, Jessie Buckley gives the film a bit of style, here playing Rosalyn Wilder, assigned by the night club to be Ms. Garland’s personal assistant. She follows up her brilliant performances in Beast (2017) and last year’s Wild Rose as a young professional who watched Ms. Garland unravel while still admiring a suffering, legendary actress.
As for the film itself, it really functions as a Broadway play that leaves you almost as depressed as Ms. Garland herself. Her quick marriage to Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock, Jr.), her fifth trip to the altar, quickly dissolves as his attempt to help her pursue shows in New York is destroyed by London performances that alienated much of the audiences.
Then again, you couldn’t help your emotional reaction when watching Ms. Garland sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in her last performance in London where she appeared unannounced. Sitting on stage as she sang this memorable song, you wished that she had found a way to return to her loving family in Kansas.