By Laurie Coker

Rating: C +

Gearing up for or towards Oscar season, viewers can expect to see excellent films and excellent actors just not necessarily together. Renee Zellweger comes to the screen again in Judy, a movie based on the late, talented Wizard of Oz star, Judy Garland. Missing for a bit of time from American cinema, Zellweger blesses British film with a stunning and moving performance as the legend who shone brightly and died far too young.

Judy, like films like My Week with Marilyn and Stan and Ollie, chronicles, not the stars entire life, but rather a small snippet when the star travels to London desperate to replenish her faltering finances.  There she is set to appear during cabaret season at London’s Talk Of The Town. Barely six months later she would be dead. Casting Zellweger is genius because she demonstrates many of the same characteristics and physical traits as Garland. There is a notable sense of fragility and nervousness in both.

Garland’s tale is a tragic one – once the darling of music and film, her life became filled with bullying studio heads and unreasonable demands. At a young age, her handlers fed her uppers to keep her slim and sleeping pills to bring her down, and it is this same mix, decades later, that would cause her demise.

The film is adapted from Peter Quilter’s stage play End Of The Rainbow, and directed by Rupert Goold. Though his eyes the story plods at a reasonable enough pace, saved from doldrums by a wonderful cast. He takes full advantage of his star’s talents. First flashing back to the early years of Garland’s life (the younger Judy played by British actress Darci Shaw, Gould saves the second act to showcase Zellweger’s often underused gifts. And she shines as bright as Garland herself.

Judy certainly will garner a best actress nod for Zellweger as she deserves – even if Judy feels like a shameless effort to do so. Goold will stay seated at the Academy Awards because as wonderful as Zellweger is, she cannot elevate the story above the pedestrian mess it is. In yet another case this year, the impressiveness is in the acting and not in the direction. Judy earns a C plus.

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