"Judy" isn't exactly Renee Zellweger's return vehicle, but it may well be. And delivering heartbreaking and heartbreaking performance as a woman who has made a career with returns is the best kind of poetic justice.
Nominated for an Oscar for three consecutive years (she won for Cold Mountain in 2004), Zellweger surprised Hollywood shortly thereafter by making a self-imposed six-year hiatus, virtually a lifetime in terms of film business.
Zellweger has made several films since his return, but none has had the impact his acting on "Judy" will surely have. Although the movie itself is virtually normal, her work not only remembers how impressive the actress has been, but also widens and broadens her range.
In a way, it is noteworthy that Zellweger does this by playing Judy Garland, a movie star who became the cynosure of all eyes playing Dorothy and singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in "The Wizard of Oz."
A ton of personal turmoil followed Garland, but she never totally lost the voice that James Mason, the actor for "A Star Is Born," said he could "tear tears from the hearts of rock."
Garland Zellweger's plays are far from Garland, but in a kind of nadir near the end, less than a year before her death in 1969, at age 47, at the hands of the barbiturates she was addicted to.
The fragile Garland of this period is a familiar figure of popular culture. It is the moment when the singer, plagued by moments of unreliability, went to London to give a final stab at the kind of public performance that transfigured and terrified her.
At about the same age as the singer and unafraid to look devastated and thin enough to lose weight, Zellweger takes a deep dive into a performance that is fiercely complete.
The pain, the sadness, the insecurity, the vulnerability, the misbehavior – it's all here, as is Garland's resilience and her never-weakened hope that things can get better.
The triumph of this performance is that Zellweger does not present so much of a Garland that we never know for portraying what we read with the kind of nuance and depth that ensures that hearts turn to her, as always.
As evidenced by her Oscar-nominated work on "Chicago," Zellweger is also an outstanding singer, and her performance benefits from her effective interpretations of several Garland classics, sung live, including "By Myself", "For Once in My" "Life" and "Come rain or shine."
The actress was probably also helped by director Rupert Goold, head of the London Almeida Theater and a director whose respected career was largely on stage.
Although his sense of film is acceptable, because "Judy" is based on "End of the Rainbow," a play by Peter Quilter, it is not surprising that the production has a sense of standard problem.
Netflix screenwriter Tom Edge (“Lovesick”, “The Crown”) was ambitious, but the expansion of the story to include a look at Garland as a beleaguered teenage actress (Darci Shaw) is inevitably not as appealing as Zellweger scenes.
"Judy" comes and goes between the older and younger Garland, a 16-year-old girl manipulated by a stage mom who gave her all sorts of pills and a surprisingly WASPy Louis B. Mayer (Richard Cordery) who insisted that she could not have a private life because "it is your job to give these people dreams."
We met the adult singer in Los Angeles, trying to enter the hotel where she lives with the children Lorna and Joey, but being turned down because her payments are too late.
With nowhere to go, she appears at the home of Brentwood, the father of son, producer Sid Luft (Rufus Sewell). Although they are no longer married, the couple continue to mingle, but Garland still leaves her children there because she has no choice.
Then comes a party of daughter Liza Minnelli, where Garland talks to child manager Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock), whose interest in her seems partly opportunistic, partly sincere.
Bankrupt, but determined to get her children back, Garland agrees to go to London, where businessman Bernard Delfont (Michael Gambon) offers her very good money to perform for five weeks at his The Talk of the Town supper club.
The challenge of keeping the singer worried and anxious on the track lies with Delfont's competent assistant Rosalyn Wilder (Jessie Buckley), a woman who is still alive and consulted the production about working with Garland.
Fully invented, on the other hand, are Dan (Andy Nyman) and Stan (Daniel Cerqueira), a gay couple who is a fan of Garland.
Garland's difficulties, of course, were terribly real, and one of the most exciting scenes is from a British interview on a talk show in which she regretfully says, "I'm Judy Garland just an hour a night. I just want what all world wants. It seems I'm having a harder time understanding.
Another important moment has Garland almost begging the audience: "You won't forget me, will you? Promise me you won't." Although the rest of "Judy" doesn't reach the heights of her star, the singer's unique career and performance Zellweger's bravery ensures that this does not happen anytime soon.
& # 39; Judy & # 39;
Evaluation: PG-13 for substance abuse, thematic content, heavy language and smoking
Runtime: 1 hour 58 minutes
Playing: In the general release