3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Renee Zellweger is back after a hiatus from cinemas and she is taking on one of the most prominent roles of her career. The Academy Award-winning actress is portraying the famed and tragic last few months of Judy Garland’s life. Two women who are known more for their famous lines in movie history than for the prestigious legacy in the film industry. Zellweger for ‘You had me at hello’ in Jerry McGuire and Garland for her exclamation upon arriving in Oz, ‘Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.’ The similarities of these two women’s lives are uncanny, but Zellweger has managed to get out from under the weight of the industry’s expectations and has risen to new heights with her latest role. 

In the decade of Vietnam War, the Beatles and flower power, Judy Garland (Zellweger) was a forgotten starlet from a bygone era in Hollywood. The year was 1969 and Judy had been struggling to maintain her career. Keeping her family with a roof over their head after four failed marriages and her addiction to alcohol and prescription medications added to her difficulties. In an attempt to remedy her financial challenges and reignite her stage career, she chose to take up the offer to sing in London for a series called, Talk of the Town. 

Rosalyn Wilder (Jessie Buckley) had the dubious responsibility of being Garland’s handler during this tumultuous time. Keeping Judy sober and getting her to the theatre on time proved to be one of the most challenging times for the young woman. Things became even more complicated when the entertainer’s most recent love interest, Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock), arrives to support the fading star.The multiple layers of Judy’s complicated life begin to cause the show and her health to be in jeopardy. She shows signs of her entertaining brilliance, but her erratic nature makes organisers, friends and family wonder if she can ever rise above her troubled past. 

It is hard to imagine that is has been 80 years since the release of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and 50 years since the death of Judy Garland. Despite the length of time, she remains a part of people’s lives and will live on in her classic performances. This portrayal of her life only focusses on the final days of her life, but with a healthy number of flashbacks, director Rupert Goold does respectfully show how Hollywood’s former darling descended into such a dark place in her life. There is nothing too surprising about this biopic’s narrative, except for Renee Zellweger’s ability to embody the tragic figure that Garland had become in 1969.

For those who can remember her performances in Chicago and Cold Mountain, this is the performance that gets the award-winning actress back to her best form. It is one thing to be able to sing and dance, but to take on the style and talent of an entertaining legend is a whole new level. Zellweger becomes Judy Garland and manages to honour her despite showing the destructive side of her life. A fascinating balance in a performance that helps to lift this film from the mundane to something deserving praise and recognition. The very thing that Garland sought throughout her lifetime from her fans and family and even though it may come too late, the entertainer will continue to receive post mortem. 

Judy Garland 1969

Reel Dialogue: Would not life be better if we did not have trials? 

Throughout our life on this earth, we strive to find comfort and seek after the least painful means of living. From pain medication to air-conditioning, life in the western world can be relatively pain-free, but is this the true ideal?

Looking through history, mankind continues to prove that trials can bring out the best in us. Few people seek out difficulties in their lives because they come without having to look for them. When confronted by these challenges, personal development and testimonies generally show what individuals have within themselves. 

This aspect of life is evident in biblical history, also. Each book of the Old Testament and New Testament show that life tribulations can provide real growth for the people of the past and these lessons can be a gift for us today. It is epitomised in the life and times of Jesus whose painful end brought forward the answer for all of our difficulties. 

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.1 Peter 5:10