Blu-ray Review: Judy

STUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Rupert Goold | CAST: Renée Zellweger, Rufus Swell, Michael Gambon, Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley
RELEASE DATE: December 24, 2019 | PRICE: DVD $22.19, Blu-ray $19.99
BONUSES: featurette
SPECS: PG-13 | 118 min. | Drama romance | 2.39:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall 

The triumphant and tragic final years of the great Judy Garland are the focus of this powerful, music-filled biographical drama boasting a tour de force screen performance from Renée Zellweger, a surefire Oscar candidate, here making a comeback of sorts herself.

Based on Peter Quilter’s play End of the Rainbow, the pathos-bathed Judy centers on the last few years of Garland’s life. After her rocky marriage to entrepreneur Sid Luft (Rufus Sewell, Gods of Egypt) deteriorates, leaving her and children Lorna and Jeff Luft in a bind, Garland tries to eke out a living playing short engagements while in heavy debt and living out of suitcases with her kids (who are part of her act).  Garland is given an opportunity to return to form by going to England and performing for good pay in an extended performance schedule at the nightclub Talk of the Town. Battling booze and pill addiction, Garland takes the offer with hopes of turning her life around, leaving her kids home with the undependable Luft.

Across the pond, Garland finds herself beloved by her fans, but a persistent problem for her theater family, including promoter (Michael Gambon, Gosford Park) and handler (Jessie Buckley, Beast), who have to deal with Garland’s unpredictable prima donna personality and substance abuse issues. At the same time, Garland begins a relationship with young impresario Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock, The Big Short) while being haunted by memories of her child star years at MGM Studios where she was under close scrutiny by all-controlling studio head Louis B. Mayer (Richard Cordery, The Wife).

As the titular Ms. Garland, Zellweger impresses in a difficult role that asks her to play a drug-addicted, self-destructive diva who makes questionable parental decisions while attempting to garner sympathy from the audience. Closely resembling the emaciated appearance of Garland in her later years, Zellweger also belts out a handful of rousing songs, including “Get Happy,” “Come Rain or Come Shine” and, of course, “Over the Rainbow,” all without it seeming like an impersonation.

Director Rupert Goold (True Story) and screenwriter Tom Edge should be given credit for cramming lots of material into this relatively low-budget indie production. They make it quite compelling, while adding some nice offbeat touches, including sequences following the plight of two gay Garland-worshipping fans over a period of time. And then there’s Zellweger, who is almost the whole show.

Released in late September to favorable reviews, Judy received a long theatrical run where it brought in close to $25 million. Continuous exposure with year-end awards for Zellweger are sure to make it a hit on the home market.

Buy or Rent Judy

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.