TIFF Review: Renée Zellweger Disappears into Her Role in ‘Judy’ Making You Root for the Icon Again

Judy shows Judy Garland (Renée Zellweger) struggling to make ends meet with two young children. At this point, no one is willing to risk hiring her in Hollywood so she takes the opportunity to perform in London for money in 1968. 

The movie mostly focuses on the last portion of the singer’s life. However, we do get flashbacks to her childhood. We see little Judy played by Darci Shaw on the iconic set of The Wizard of Oz. It’s beautiful with its red roses and fake landscape, but how the movie star is being treated by studio head, Louis B. Mayer sours it all.

Louis B. Mayer is a looming force on every aspect of her life, and we see the effects of that

Mayer is a looming force on every aspect of her life, and we see the effects of that even in the last years of it. It only makes sense that years of being forced to take pills and live in fear of putting on weight would stay with someone.

Judy Garland is portrayed as a complicated woman. She loves fiercely, which leads to some sweet scenes with her children. The icon is petty, which is sometimes played for laughs when she tries to get back at her ex-husband Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell.) She is also a flirt who can turn on the charm, and yet be very insecure.

That insecurity stems from the abuse she had to endure from being in the business. However, it is also from experiencing the downturn of her career and being told for years that she’s replaceable.

Renée Zellweger’s singing is electrifying

It takes some time to finally see the star perform. The build up is worth it given it really shows the audience where she is in her life before getting to London. When she finally takes the stage you have no clue what will happen given this unpredictable celebrity.

Will she be able to win over the audience? Will Zellweger too be able to win them over playing the beloved singer?

I’ll avoid answering the first question, but the answer to the second is yes. Zellweger’s performance is electrifying for multiple reasons. One reason is that it looks like it physically takes every cell in her body to perform the big numbers. Secondly, you are still not sure what will happen because of the unreliable performer so you hold your breath until the number is fully done to know how to feel.

I credit the actress, and director, Rupert Goold for creating this kind of suspense.

In the end, it’s an underdog story about someone who is already a legend

Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland in 'Judy'
Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland in ‘Judy’ Courtesy of TIFF

The movie is an interesting underdog story. Judy might be dressed as someone who once fit into the glamour of Hollywood, but those she truly has a connection to are underdogs.

The movie does a wonderful job acknowledging what Garland means to the LGBTQIA community. That part of the story is one of the most beautiful aspects of the movie.

Judy is a great study of who Garland was at the end of her life. It doesn’t judge but loves her fully. It won’t be surprising if many will leave the theater loving Zellweger too.