Rupert Goold’s Judy Garland biopic is the type of Oscar bait movie that Miramax used to pump out every holiday season in the 1990s in the hopes that the award season hype would overshadow the boringly conventional narrative that often accompanies these types of movies. Renee Zellweger’s performance is somewhere between dead-on pantomiming and effective character work: She has Garland’s histrionics down pat and her body language is dead on (not to mention her terrific, sound-alike vocals), and while she manages to communicate a harrowingly agitated core that motivates a number Garland’s bad decisions, Garland herself often verged on self-parody during the period the movie focuses on (which is her 1968 concert run in London) so the performance is occasionally jarring. The narrative that surrounds her also succumbs to the pitfalls of tragic-artist biopics, which is a wash-rinse-repeat cycle of overwhelming pressure leading to substance abuse, resulting in disastrous public performances, repeated ad nauseum until the end credits roll. So while Zellweger’s commitment to her performance is remarkable and she often disappears in the role, it’s a very showy, actor-y performance that’s occasionally distracting, and the bare-bones narrative isn’t all that interesting.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)