In Uncategorized on October 7, 2019 at 6:28 am
 Screenshot 2019-10-07 at 2.21.04 AM
When I first saw the promotional ads for JUDY, I thought, “Whoa, Zellweger has captured the look at least,” not easy for an actress with the smallest eyes in the world playing the one with the biggest. But, such is the weird alchemy of a performer’s will and determination (see the chameleonic Michelle Williams) and Zellweger’s transformation in the film is even more uncanny, as she definitely apprehends Garlands behavorial essence, facially: the transmitted near-constant nervousness, the mobile mouth with those lips pouting or pursed, the squinched-up expressions of affability especially when she’s trying to charm a person, the frantic rakings of her hair, the overall mercurial moodiness with near split-second transitions. I truly believed her as this end-of-days, beat-out Judy and she definitely transmitted every inch of the pathos and crushing loneliness, sans dialogue, through a multitude of mesmerizing closeups showing her deep in doubtlessly cascading thought if not near hopeless despair.
The singing is just passable, JUST. It has spirit at least, if nothing like the simple, elemental richness of the original, and there are moments when, in mid-song, the focus goes slack which never happened with Garland, good, bad or indifferent. They would have been wiser to have made the musical selections shorter as Zellweger, being an untrained singer for the occasional musical, cannot sustain long reiterations and reprises of songs (as clearly demo’ed in the Get Happy duet with Rufus – or is it Sam- which just falls to embarrassing nothingness in the reprise, no build, nothing.) What Zellweger does definitely lack is Garland’s ineffable, often inspired movement (which ironically she gets in the rest of the film including the hunched posture that brought her to the chiropracter’s eventually), and I think maybe Lysinka should have been hired to give her, move-by-move, the necessary athletic elan that was a huge part of the Judy magic. A solid actress like her could have slavishly aped those familiar gestures and then made them her own. She seems to have been left to her own devices and mostly concentrated on the singing, because the cliched gesticulating with the arms and shambling, too generic dance moves are nothing like the explosively,kinetic energy of Garland live, a fireball of miraculously organic action, working her mic cord like a lasso, posture, stance and sassy hoofing into one gloriously eye-riveting and thrilling spectacle.
Rupert Goold’s direction is adequate, never inspired but the biggest advantage this film gave itself was almost completely jettisoning the crap, beyond trashy Broadway play which is credited as the original source material. What they have substituted is infinitely less vulgar,and sometimes very moving and perceptive, indeed.
The presentation of her two younger kids is mawkishly uninspired, and her daughter Lorna is saddled with an atrocious flip wig. However, the scene in which she hides with them in the wardrobe of her custody-foe ex, Sid Luft, is truly touching, all of it due to Zellweger’s convincing maternal passion. The filmmakers seemed almost determined not to present Liza as a caricature, so she comes across as a doe-eyed if slightly too zaftig bland starlet, which the real thing might actually enjoy, for a change.
The actress playing the young Judy is affecting (how could she not be, poor victim that she is) but is presented as far too surface normal, just another gawky adolescent seeking love and the loss of weight. The filmmakers went pretty far with Louis B. Mayer, not only giving him unconvincingly pretentious and florid diatribes about the movie industry and its potential for the masses, but also extreme suggestions that pedophilia was involved in their relationship (give me good ole Howard da Silvas’ far more benign, if insensitive, cut-and-tried asshole Mayer in MOMMIE DEAREST, any day). His cruel nickname for her was ‘the hunchback,’ and he was always on her to lose weight so he would have been the most desperate and extreme kind of child molester to be pawing her. A severely un-handsomed Rufus Sewell brings some much needed force to the flick as her once-loved, now-loathed ex hubby/manager Sid Luft: he and Zellweger make compellingly fierce adversaries. I’m glad the Mickey Deans they chose was at least comely and fun – poor Judy deserved something good at that stage, particularly – more hapless than hell-bent in her case. There are also two female retainers for Garland who seem interchangeably hawk-nosed and devoid of any individual personalities
From this film, you would think that her only gay fans in the UK were a very sweet and very sad middle-aged couple she befriends and goes home with for a disastrous pasta dinner. Although I am glad the movie addresses the topic, did they have to be quite so fucking weepy? One of them, in fact, gets so bathetically teary, I just wanted to shout, “Shut up! Yeah, things in the 60s are bad but wait til AIDS sets in! Then you’ll really have somethng to weep over.” It was all very much of the song “All the Sad Young Men”which bar owners at the time would sadistically put on as their last call melody. So, perhaps these scenes could be deemed historically accurate but, as they are executed here, I don’t just don’t want watch them. I know Garland didn’t suffer fools or bores, and her gay male friends had to have been and were a lot more fun than these two very sad sacks. Instead of lightening up the quite depressing circumstances of this tale, as gays have always done in adversity, they merely add to the stereotypical period litany of woe.
I was quite happy to see that this is no el cheap-o production: the production design was handsome, Garland’s costumes were glam and right, if maybe a tad too fashion-y (but a memorable recreation of her infamous 5th wedding dress), the photography beautifully clear-eyed, and even poetic at moments, and the film was definitely blessed by Gabriel Yared’s subtle, lovely score.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: