Judy

Posted on September 26, 2019 at 5:52 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for substance abuse, thematic content, some strong language, and smoking
Profanity: Some strong language, one f-word
Alcohol/ Drugs: Substance abuse including pills and alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Medical/addiction issues
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: September 27, 2019
Copyright 2019 Roadside Attractions

On YouTube you can find a clip from Judy Garland’s 1963 variety television series where she sings “The Christmas Song” (the one that begins with the chestnuts roasting on an open fire) with its co-writer, Mel Torme. It is a very festive scene, and you can glimpse Garland’s three children, Liza Minnelli and Lorna and Joey Luft. It has an intimate, natural feeling and we can see that Garland is genuinely fond of Torme, who was creating all of the specialty musical material for her show. You can also see Garland’s impressive musicianship as she joins the duet, every note, beat, impeccable. And then comes a small mistake. We all know the lyrics by heart: “And every mother’s child is gonna spy /To see if reindeer really know how to fly.” But instead of “reindeer,” Judy Garland cannot help singing a word she has been singing since she was a teenager. She sings, “if rainbows really know how to fly.”

Everything covered in “Judy,” about the last months of Garland’s life, is evident in that brief clip, her mesmerizing, once-to-a-planet talent, even after the years of drinking and drug use, her fierce love for her children and dedication to keeping them near her, and the haunting memories of her early years of stardom and abuse. And there is one more thing, which is what takes Renee Zellweger from an impersonation to a performance and is the film’s most significant insight. We see how Garland, who tells us she first sang in public at age 2, is always, always, always treating the people around her as an audience. She is always wooing, pleasing, flirting, even pleading. In one charming scene, as she entertains Joey and Lorna to cheer them up that she has to leave them with their father while she takes a job in London, singing at a club called Talk of the Town.

Her appearance there is still legendary. Some nights she was everything her fans adored her for — the ultimate in talent, showmanship, and pure star power. Some nights were catastrophic, the portrait of total decompensating collapse. Some nights she never made it on stage.

In this retelling, the story is simplified to this: Garland was exploited, isolated, and abused as a child performer, constantly nagged about her weight, fed pills to keep her from eating and then, when those kept her awake, given more pills to put her to sleep. The money disappeared, so she had to keep working when all she wanted to do was stay with her children. As it begins, with a flashback, we see Louis B. Mayer present the teenaged Garland with the eternal choice faced by Achilles. Does she want a happy but quiet life or does she want to be important and known by millions? Standing on the yellow brick road in the set for “The Wizard of Oz,” she chooses the only option she has ever known: stardom. And, this movie suggests, the chaos that resulted was inevitable.

There are too many flashbacks, perhaps included for the current generation, who may not know the details of Garland’s story. Certainly, though, they are familiar with the idea that celebrities often have traumatic and unstable lives, and the flashbacks add very little. The present day (in the world of the film) scenes of Garland’s last romance and last performances are not especially dramatic or insightful, though there are some clever lines (a doctor asks if she takes anything for depression and Garland answers: “Four husbands”) and some touching scenes, including one where she impulsively spends the evening with a pair of fans, eating eggs and singing at their piano. That scene suggests the conflict between the unquenchable need for an audience and the hope of home and peace and family.

What there is here is Zellweger’s total immersion in the performance, as with Garland too often herself, so vital and impossible to look away from that it transcends the limits of the material she outshines.

Parents should know that this film includes substance abuse — liquor and pills — and pills being given to a teenager, child custody issues, and some strong language.

Family discussion: How did Judy Garland’s childhood experiences determine her adult choices? Could anyone have helped her?

If you like this, try: the films of Judy Garland, especially “The Wizard of Oz,” “Easter Parade,” and “A Star is Born” and a story similar to this one, “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”

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Behind the Scenes: Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland

Posted on September 7, 2019 at 12:20 pm

Renee Zellweger stars in “Judy,” the story of Judy Garland’s triumphant return to live concert performance in 1969 London, at the Talk of the Town nightclub. Here we get a peek behind the scenes with Zellweger, her director and co-stars, and a producer of the Garland show.

Fans can hear the real Talk of the Town performance here:

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Behind the Scenes Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Bridget Jones’s Baby

Posted on September 15, 2016 at 5:15 pm

Copyright Working Title 2016
Copyright Working Title 2016
I really don’t like saying this. But Bridget Jones has the same problem as Adam Sandler and the rest of those Apatow-ish man-boys. They haven’t figured out that cluelessness and mistakes that are endearing in a 20-something are annoying and then just exhausting when they get older. Bridget, again played by Renee Zellweger though without the yo-yo weight gain, says in this film that she has to stop making the same mistakes and start making new ones. Well, she’s right. But it’s pretty much the same mistakes, professional and romantic disaster, though with higher stakes this time. The filmmakers, director Sharon Maguire (the original Bridget Jones film) and Helen Fielding (creator of the character and co-screenwriter) rely on a level of affection for the characters we first met onscreen 15 years ago and most recently saw 12 years ago, but make no effort to re-introduce them to those of us who, like Bridget, were a lot younger then, or introduce then those who are too young to have seen them.

Bridget, finally at her goal weight and in a good job producing television news, has still not made things work with Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth), who is married to someone else, someone frightfully capable and intelligent. Bridget decides, with some encouragement, to go off and have some carefree sex with a random guy to perk up her spirits, so she goes “glamping” at a music festival something between Burning Man, Woodstock, and Canyon Ranch. After a meet cute than involves her falling into a mud puddle, she does have a wild night of love with a very handsome American named Jack, played by Dr. McDreamy himself, Patrick Dempsey, whose performance would have been a lot better if his character had, well, any characteristics other than being not Mark Darcy in every way.

A few days later, Bridget and Darcy find themselves at the same party and he tells her he is getting divorced. Next thing you know, she is as they say in the UK, up the spout, and has no idea, as they say in the US, who’s the daddy. If you think this is wildly hilarious, wait until she brings them both to childbirth preparation class and they are mistaken for a gay couple. What a knee-slapper! And this comes after the excruciating farce of keeping them from finding out they are both possible fathers (and that she slept with both of them) and the excruciating farce of telling them. The only thing that works in this mess is Emma Thompson at her very best as the obstetrician. Apparently she wrote her own dialog as she is listed as co-screenwriter, and her scenes have a wit and crackle that is sorely missing from the rest of the film.

Parents should know that this film includes very raunchy humor with explicit sexual references and situations and comic nudity, theme of question of paternity, very strong language used by adults and children, and alcohol.

Family discussion: How has Bridget changed since the first film? Is she making the same mistakes or new ones?

If you like this, try: the earlier Bridget Jones films, “and Baby Mama” and the “Catastrophe” series on Amazon

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Trailer Premiere: Same Kind of Different As Me with Greg Kinnear, Renee Zellweger, and Djimon Hounsou

Posted on August 17, 2016 at 11:18 am

The bestseller Same Kind of Different As Me is the true story of a sophisticated art dealer whose life was changed by his friendship with a homeless man. We are pleased to premiere the trailer for the film based on the book, starring Greg Kinnear, Djimon Hounsou, and Renee Zellweger.

The movie will be in theaters February 3, 2017.

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