FILM REVIEW: Judy. Malvern Theatres.

Perhaps we shouldn’t feel all that sorry for the famous and the privileged, especially Hollywood icons like Judy Garland, but this movie does its best to bring the tears, and it often succeeds.

On one level, it’s a tale about abuse and dysfunctional families. If the plot is true to life, it’s astonishing that Garland survived into her forties.

As a 15 year old on the set of The Wizard of Oz, she is given pills to stop hunger and pills to keep her awake, or to make her sleep. Judy cannot be a normal teenager, because eating just one forbidden chip is seen as a major rebellion.

Later, middle-aged, alcoholic, pill dependent and virtually unemployable, Judy travels through the night with her children, only to find she has been shut out of their hotel room, because of unpaid bills. It is all a long way from The Yellow Brick Road.

Renée Zellweger’s performance as the adult Judy has “Oscar” written all over it, but the rest of the cast puts in pretty strong performances too, including Rufus Sewell as Judy’s perplexed and increasingly critical ‘ex’, Sidney Luft. When Judy insists she’s been a good mother to their children, he replies, brutally but accurately, that she wanted to be.

The question is, how can an icon who brought so much joy to others experience so little joy herself? One of the most moving scenes is when Judy goes to the flat of a gay couple in London. They are huge fans. They have also been persecuted for their sexuality. When one of the men breaks down, while playing the piano, he’s rewarded with a hug from Garland. She understands, because she has suffered also; and they love her for her glamour, - and because she has suffered to the same extent, albeit for different reasons.

Gary Bills-Geddes