Complete A-Z list



Stars: Renee Zellweger, Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Darci Shaw, Bella Ramsey, Richard Cordery

Director: Rupert Goold

It's perhaps gently ironic that Buckley, who burst on the scene earlier this year, acting and singing up a storm in Wild Rose, should appear here as the London PA to another actress singing and acting her socks off in Zellweger, playing the legendary Judy Garland (born Frances Gumm) at the end of her short life, now a raddled shell of her vintage days, her health broken by the regime of pills forced on her by MGM, and its lecherous chief, Louis B Mayer (Cordery), in her studio years.

Zellweger is agonisingly real in the role, and has the emaciated look and familiar inflections down pat; she also, like Buckley, has a sensationally strong and throbbing singing voice.

The drama around them, however, flies less high, drifting into familiar biopic territory, covered in similar style in Garland's last (British) musical film, I Could Go On Singing.

Tom Edge's screenplay, however, while often too conventional, does provide Zellweger with some telling lines. As she fights her ex, Sid Luft (Sewell) for custody of their two children, she declares that 'Kids? It's like living with your heart on the outside of your body.' And again 'I just want what everyone wants. I just seem to have a harder time getting it.'

A London doctor warns her to slow down, and asks if she's taking anything for depression. 'Yes,' she replies. 'Four husbands. It didn't work.' But there's a fifth in the wings: the fly-by-night entrepreneur Mickey Deans, monotonously played by Wittrock, whose promises to Judy prove to be empty air.

Nonetheless, it's Zellweger's dominating performance, mouth a red gash of lipstick, and living forever on the edge of herself, that keeps you watching - and listening, to her stunning interpretations of Garland standards. One could have wished for a slightly punchier version of Over the Rainbow at the end, but surely a second Oscar awaits this remarkable star next spring.

It's an extraordinary performance in a rather ordinary movie - a bit like I Could Go On Singing itself.

David Quinlan

UK 2019. UK Distributor: Pathe . Colour (unspecified).
118 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 29 Sep 2019