Stars: Renée Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon
This biopic, which charts Garland’s final series of London concerts the year before her death in 1969, shares the same structure and setting (and even a character) as last year’s Laurel and Hardy pic ‘Stan and Ollie’. Following a brief prologue on the set of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, we skip forward thirty years to see faded star Garland (Zellweger) and her children being turned away from the LA hotels they had been living in due to lack of funds. Unable to support them, Judy has to leave her children with her ex-husband Sidney Luft (Sewell). Then an invitation comes from English theatre impresario Bernard Delfont (Gambon) to do a series of concerts at his Talk of the Town nightclub, which Judy, in want of a better offer, accepts. There she takes a younger lover and things begin to look up, but Delfont and Garland’s newly assigned assistant minder Rosayln (Buckley) become increasingly frustrated when she skips rehearsals and shows up drunk to her performances. Zellweger, sporting convincing and non-distracting prosthetic make-up, wholly inhabits the part, effectively conveying Garland’s combination of vulnerability and neediness with charisma and old-school show biz moxie. Despite the pervading middlebrow feel, the picture comes to life spectacularly in the music scenes when the old fire is rekindled and Garland lets rip. The invention of a gay couple who the singer befriends, while a little contrived, touchingly acknowledges Garland’s importance to the community.