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Judy (12A)

Directed by Rupert Goold Starring: Renée Zellweger, Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon Pathé - BBC Films - Calamity Films - Roadside Attractions. 118 minutes

2019

As a boy I remember seeing Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz at my hometown Odeon.

There was something fantastically wonderful about that film, which established Garland as a true movie icon. What the film Judy makes clear is the personal cost of gaining that iconic status. It focuses on the final year of Garland’s life, exploring her mixed-up sense of identity (at one point in the film Judy says: “I am only Judy Garland for one hour at a time”).

Although there are still flashes of brilliance, this film recounts a story of a life unravelling and spiralling into chaos. This flows from Judy’s experiences as a child actress; this part of her life is depicted in frequent flashbacks that reveal a controlled and abusive environment.

Renée Zellweger superbly inhabits this role; she has captured the fragile look and quirky demeanour of Judy. Some have been critical of the fact that her voice is used rather than Judy’s voice for the songs. Clearly, she does not have the unique tone or range of Judy, but Zellweger does capture the emotion.

Perhaps the most moving moment is the introduction to Somewhere Over the Rainbow.  Judy says, “this song is about hope; everybody needs hope”.  Sadly, Judy did not appear to reach the other side of the rainbow, her hopes shattered by broken dreams, promises and relationships.

Contemporary viewers might reflect on how celebrities sometime find it easier to connect with strangers than their own relatives. It is a poignant reminder that you cannot be yourself if you do not really know who you are!

John Woods is pastor of Lancing Tabernacle in West Sussex

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