Rupert Goold’s fascinating and moving film charting Judy Garland’s final London performances and her ongoing struggles is consistently engaging to watch unfold.
Powerfully moving, Rupert Goold’s film based on Peter Quilter’s play ‘End of the Rainbow’ effectively conveys the many different aspects of Judy Garland’s life and personality to heartbreaking effect thanks in huge part to Renee Zellweger’s mesmerising performance.
Focusing predominantly on Judy Garland’s London performances six months before she tragically passed away, Judy gives a fascinating insight into the background of her many different struggles affecting her life at this time, while attempting to capture why she was so idolised to so many people.
What Goold’s film does consistently well with is capturing just how overwhelming and exhausting being a star was for Judy. She loved the adoration and performing but equally she felt the extreme pressure of having to live up to people’s expectations that is heartbreaking to watch – particularly during scenes in which her performances don’t go quite according to plan. Meanwhile, the flash back scenes are absolutely brilliantly well filmed – highlighting the brutality and child exploitation that she faced featuring an extraordinary performance from Darci Shaw as the young Judy – particularly during moments in which she attempts to rebel.
This struggle is beautifully portrayed through Renee Zellweger’s impressive performance that showcases not only Judy’s vulnerability but her charisma that made her so beloved. In particular, the moments in which she doubts Rosalyn’s (Jessie Buckley) loyalty or her determination to ensure that her children remain with her are particularly raw and mesmerising to watch. Her portrayal is of a woman who loves her children and wants to stay as part of a family but is caught up in a fame machine that she can’t escape. Vocally, Zellweger perhaps doesn’t have the same quality of vocals but it would be difficult to find an actress who could and yet her renditions of songs such as ‘By Myself’ and ‘Get Happy’ seem particularly profound in this context.
Some may find that the number of characters who run through this film without getting full development, such as Rufus Sewell’s Sidney Luft, doesn’t make the film feel as fully rounded as it could be but essentially this is Judy’s story and the film highlights the bubble that she lived in. She was lonely and vulnerable – no matter how many people she had in her life at any given time.
Many of the film’s strongest moments arrive when it feels like Judy has a genuine connection with someone in her life. In particular it is lovely to see her tentative relationship with Rosalin develop, while the scene in which she attempts to cook with a gay couple adds a little bit of colour and joy – no matter how briefly.
There is also so much detail to appreciate, Rupert Goold’s attention to close up’s highlight Zellweger’s attention to how Judy could perhaps use humour to mask the pain through her facial expressions for example, while Jany Temime’s costume designs are exquisite throughout.
Perhaps the film does attempt to do too much that it has a tendency to feel slightly overwhelming in places but it is well intentioned and plays out well as much as cautionary tale of the Hollywood film industry as it is a tale at one of its all-time biggest stars.
Beautifully heartbreaking, this is a film that somehow still manages to ensure that Judy Garland was a enigmatic personality who even those closest to her didn’t seem to know her as well as they should have – particularly when it came to her really needing help. A powerful and fascinating watch.
By Emma Clarendon
Judy is out in cinemas now.