- Anna Smith
- 30 September 2019
Renée Zellweger is tremendous as tragic icon Judy Garland in this look at her later life
Judy Garland died in 1969 at the age of 47. Also that year, she married her fifth husband and performed a five-week run in a London nightclub. This biopic takes a look at that time, with Renée Zellweger on top form as the pill-popping singer, indelibly marked by her experiences as a child actress in the likes of The Wizard of Oz. It's a sad indictment of the early days of Hollywood, but director Rupert Goold (True Story) still finds plenty of joy, glamour and heart in this adaptation of the hit play End of the Rainbow.
We meet Judy when she is divorcing husband number four, and encounters handsome young Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock) at a party. He follows her to London, but this is less focused on their romance and more on her struggles to complete her work commitments while drifting drunkenly from hotels to bars, adored but unhappy and wracked with guilt about being separated from her children.
This is a portrait of a deeply lonely woman, and its best scenes are both poignant and gently amusing. One adorable moment sees the star inviting a pair of startled gay autograph hunters out to dinner, only to end up at their small flat when all restaurants are shut. A tender conversation ensues, recalling My Week with Marilyn in its depiction of an ill-fated actress having an encounter with a British fan.
This also recalls the recent Stan & Ollie, but it's better, not least due to Zellweger's tremendous performance. Whether she's delivering fake smiles or – more rarely – real ones, Zellweger is captivating as the tragic star, her face etched with sadness, her eyes wistful, her shoulders slightly hunched, her stagger barely under control. This seems like the role the actress has been waiting for – and the film many Garland fans have too.
General release from Wed 2 Oct.