Judy Garland (Renee Zellweger; Bridget Jones' Diary) seemed to have a charmed life. As a teenager, she was signed to a film deal with MGM Studios. She acted, danced and sang her way into America's heart playing Esther Smith in Meet Me in St. Louis, Susan Bradley in Harvey's Girls and Hannah Brown in Easter Parade. Perhaps her most iconic role though was as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz. Born Born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Garland was the youngest of three daughters born to Francis and Ethel, Vaudevillian performers who brought their daughters into the business. Judy became a star at an early age, a status that unfortunately haunted her until her untimely death.
Judy (played as a teenager by Darci Shaw; The Bay) was indoctrinated into the Hollywood life from an early age. Considered to be not as pretty as her contemporaries, Judy was constantly criticized for her appearance. She was monitored at all times, and her food intake was controlled. She was supposedly fed amphetamines to stay awake and maintain a hectic schedule and barbiturates to fall asleep at night. She was manipulated by studio head Louis B. Mayer who dubbed her his "little Hunchback".
Judy had a number of successful years with MGM but as her addiction to pills and alcoholism worsened she because unreliable and erratic. She would show up late to film sets and was frequently drunk. Suicide attempt rumors plagued her and she spent time in a sanitarium on more than one occasion. Later in her career, due to mismanagement of her money and embezzlement by her management team, Judy was broke and owed back taxes. In order to make money, she took a job in London, leaving her two younger children with their father in California. Unfortunately, She would never return to the United States, dying of an accidental drug overdose in June of 1969.
Zellweger has one of the most memorable roles of her career playing the adult Garland. She not only looks like Judy but her mannerisms are so similar to those of Garland that it is easy to lose Zellweger and only see Garland. Amazingly, she also sings throughout the film infusing the same heart and charisma that Garland had. Jesse Buckley (Wild Rose) gives her second stellar performance in a film this year portraying Talk of the Town production manager Rosalyn Wilder. Buckley's presence can be felt in every scene she is in and I, for one, can't wait to see what she is in next.
The 1080p resolution the Blu-ray offers clean visuals and vibrant colors. The slight graininess of the fas back scenes gives the film an authentic feel as the time period was in the late 1930s. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 showcases the orchestration and Zellweger's voice nicely. the musical numbers are crisp and the dialogue is sharp sitting comfortably in the center channel speaker. The Blu-ray offers little in the way of extras, though. Besides the theatrical trailer and photo gallery, there is only one feature about the making of the film, which only wets one's appetite for more behind the scenes footage.
Judy Garland was a treasure and an icon who unfortunately became a victim of the industry she loved so dearly and this film presents her story in such a way as to evoke sympathy for the woman who was abused by the studio system as a child. Perhaps had the treatment been different, Garland might have lived another 25- 30 years.
Under the direction of Rupert Goold (True Story), Zellweger and Buckley shine as the film moves at a decent pace. For those who remember Garland, this film will be a walk down memory lane while for newer generations it offers an opportunity to discover a brilliant but flawed performer.