By: Amber Avila
For the first time in years Renée Zellwegger is getting Oscar buzz for her critically acclaimed performance as Judy Garland in the new biopic “Judy.” This film is about the last year of Judy Garland’s life and what led to her tragic end. Zellwegger is being praised for her phenomenal portrayal as the late singer and for the passion, energy, and heart she put into the role.
“You’ll want to see this for Zellweger’s bravura turn alone. It’s one of the best performances of the year,” Rolling Stone movie critic Peter Travers wrote.
If this role leads to her winning an Oscar next February, she will be the 10th oldest Best Actress winner in the 91-year history of the Academy Awards. Not only would she break ground in that area, but her incredible performance since years of not acting is in a way her comeback from her six year hiatus. Zellweger has acted since taking a break, for instance in 2016 to reprise her role as Bridget Jones in the final film and in 2017 as Deborah Hall in “Same Kind of Different as Me” as well as the Netflix miniseries “What/If” earlier this year. However, those roles did put her back on her feet as an actress. Her most recent role as Judy Garland in the biopic “Judy” is her true crowning achievement.
Zellwegger is one of the most widely known American actresses and producers who has been in multiple iconic films throughout the past three decades. She is best known for her roles in “Nurse Betty,” ’Jerry Maguire,” ‘Empire Records,” ‘Cold Mountain,” and “Chicago,” which earned her an Oscar nomination.
During her prime, 1996 to 2007, she was one of America’s most prominent actresses. In 2007, she was one of the highest-paid actresses in the world and in 2009 was named Woman of the Year by Hasty Pudding Theatricals. She has won several awards including three Golden Globe awards and an Oscar for “Cold Mountain.”
According to Variety, “Judy” producer David Livingstone worked with Zellweger on “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and knew that she was right for the role because of her talent. Livingstone said that she seemed to be determined and committed to playing the role accurately. Zellweger and the set team studied rare recordings of Garland, talked with people that had not spoken about her in 40 years, and even met with one of her old dancers, band members, and the owner of the club she performed at during the last year of her life.
“Renee was hungry, she had a hunger for the information. She was picking up everything and looking at it, like shells on a beach. Some she was keeping, some throwing away. She has her own way of doing things,” Livingstone said in an interview with Variety.
Zellweger not only played the role, but also sang and danced the part as well, which was very powerful throughout the whole film. From the way she slouched her body to the way she puckered up her lips, she captured the essence of Garland in an astounding way. No matter what anyone feels about Zellweger’s performance, the two years of research and dedication she put into the role is worth recognition. It is obvious that Zellweger cares about her work and the legacy of Judy Garland.
“What struck me was, despite the tragic circumstances and how they were portrayed on the public record, she never stopped hoping. She was a joyful person. She didn’t strike me as a tragic figure at all. She seemed heroic in her determination to carry on and her belief that things would get better,” Zellweger said in an interview with TIME.
The movie unfortunately does lack in some areas, such as having too few flashbacks. The film only went back in time to when Garland was a teenager during the filming of her earlier projects such as “The Wizard of Oz.” The audience sees the abuse that Judy went through, but only during that time. The plot would have been stronger if it explored other challenging parts of her life along with the happier moments. Going back from only one point in her life to the present during the film does not fully show the picture of what led to her unfortunate end.
The film also does not explain the relationships that Judy had with the people around her. For example, there are scenes where Judy is with her ex-husband Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell). During their first scene, the dialogue only informs that they were divorced but gives no reasons as to why. The lack of information is confusing and leaves the audience questioning throughout the film.
However, Zellweger’s performance is both powerful and important. Hopefully this role will earn her a second Oscar and will also create more opportunities for her career in the future.