28 February 2020.
How very sad her life was. Though for the myriad fans who revered her, she would always be sweet little Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”, lost, far from home, looking for answers to life, wistfully singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Or maybe that really was Judy Garland herself – little girl lost, much of her life. It may have been her exposure to stardom in her childhood, struggling through the tough studio system of those early years of cinema. It may have been some flaw in her own character of course, or a combination of many reasons that pulled her down to the brief relief and then darkness of drugs and alcohol.
But she did have that smiling pixie face, tremulous singing voice, often great charm, humor and warmth that carried her through her turbulent life of great musicals, dramatic roles, TV shows, five marriages, three children, and made her an icon to millions before she died in 1969 at the early age of 47 of a barbiturate overdose.
This film depicts some of these moments of her life, but concentrates mainly on the winter of 1968, the year she accepted a final contract for a sold-out series of shows at London’s Talk of the Town nightclub. By then she was desperate, for she was exhausted, completely broke, could not afford a home where she could keep her two youngest children, and was falling back into pills and drinking bouts. She’d also just met her last husband, Mickey Deans, much younger than herself, yet another disappointment.
Director Rupert Goold and Renee Zellweger as Judy have concocted an homage to her talent which is not always easy to watch, especially if you are a fan. In her own comeback, Zellweger has given her all and ran off with every award for best actress – Golden Globes, BAFTA, Oscars, the works. For some reason, I was not convinced – her portrayal seemed too slick, contrived and voyeuristic. I did not feel the real, fragile woman behind all the makeup and outfits, as one did with the moving 2007 biopic on France’s Edith Piaf, “La Vie en Rose”. But this is nevertheless a film to see, of a legend and a star.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.