(director: Rupert Goold; screenwriters: based on the Peter Quilter play End of the Rainbow/Tom Edge; cinematographer: Ole Bratt Birkeland; editor: Melanie Ann Oliver; music: Gabriel Yared; cast: Renée Zellweger (Judy Garland), Jessie Buckley (Rosalyn Wilder), Rufus Sewell (Sidney Luft), Finn Wittrock (Mickey Deans), Michael Gambon (Bernard Delfont), Bella Ramsey (Lorna Luft), Lewin Lloyd (Joey), Darci Shaw (Judy Garland), Richard Cordery (Louis B. Mayer), Royce Pierreson (Burt), Tim Ahern (Walter Rickerts), John Dagleish (Lonnie Donegan), Gemma-Leah Devereux (Liza Minnelli), Fenella Woolgar (Margaret Hamilton), Andy Nyman (Dan), Phil Dunster (Ben); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: David Livingstone; Calamity Films/Roadside Attractions; 2019-UK)

Standard-issue biopic made more watchable by the passionate and vulnerable performance by Renée Zellweger.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Standard-issue biopic made more watchable by the passionate and vulnerable performance by Renée Zellweger, that gets over even though no one would mistake her singing for Judy Garland’s. Director Rupert Goold (“True Story”/”Macbeth”) adequately adapts it from the Peter Quilter play “End of the Rainbow,” while Tom Edge smartly writes the formulaic screenplay that mainly falters because of too many clichés.

The film is set in 1968 as the damaged Judy Garland (Renée Zellweger), at the end of her waning career, is in England to star in a series of sold-out live concerts. The star, who at 16 became a child star (cast as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz), was to die a year later at age 47, after battling a prescription-drug addiction and dying after an accidental drug overdose. At this time Judy was seeking custody of her children, Lorna (Bella Ramsey) and Joey Luft ( Lewin Lloyd), from her third ex-husband Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell), even though she’s an alcoholic, penniless and homeless. Judy at this time can’t get out of the way of trouble, as she’s newly saddled with another bad marriage and business plans that sour.

There are repeated flashbacks to her teen-age years at M-G-M, where Judy’s superbly played by Darci Shaw, that reveal how she was badly treated under the studio system (MGM head Louis B. Mayer was a monster, treating her as a pawn), but despite that and having a troubled personal life still achieved worldwide fame.

Too much time was spent on the ugly story of Judy’s fifth marriage to the crass hustler Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock), while not enough was made of the decent relationship between Judy and her caring Talk of the Town Brit handler, Rosalyn Wilder (Jessie Buckley). But if you’re a fan of Judy’s, there’s enough good things about it (like its crisp dialogue, the commanding performance by Renée and the colorful sets) for it to be liked as a sympathetic portrayal of the beloved fragile star.

Renee Zellweger in Judy

REVIEWED ON 11/21/2019   GRADE: B –   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/