[#2020oscardeathrace] Judy (2019)

Director: Rupert Goold

Cast: Renee Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon

Screenplay: Tom Edge

118 mins. Rated PG-13 for substance abuse, thematic content, some strong language, and smoking.

Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress [Renee Zellweger] [PENDING]

Academy Award Nominee: Best Makeup and Hairstyling [PENDING]

 

I didn’t know much about Judy Garland outside of The Wizard of Oz, so I was very interested in a biopic about the actress and singer, and I was all the more excited to see Renee Zellweger (Chicago, TV’s What/If) in the lead role. Now, with all the awards talk for Zellweger, I think it’s the right time to discuss this film from director Rupert Goold (True Story, King Charles III).

Judy tells the story of Judy Garland (Zellweger) in 1968 as she performs a series of concerts in London. Judy is still struggling with memories of the past, her time working on The Wizard of Oz, her life being controlled and dictated for her. The pain of her past has led to a reliance on prescription pills and alcohol, and she searches to find a way to get a better financial situation for her and her kids.

Without the performance of Renee Zellweger, I don’t know that Judy, as a film, would work. It’s a perfectly fine narrative, and I especially love the flashbacks to her youth. The actress who plays younger Judy, Darci Shaw, is amazing. I think the rest of the principal cast is fine, but there are times when the pacing doesn’t work.

As I mentioned, the rest of the principal cast does quite well, but make no mistake, Renee Zellweger owns this film with her exemplary performance as Judy Garland. It’s been a while since we’ve seen great Zellweger, and this is probably the best performance of her her entire career. It’s impossible not to be absolutely blown away by her acting and singing in the movie. I can’t see any way that she doesn’t walk away with this Best Actress Oscar.

I think the biggest fault of the film’s marketing campaign is that it was sold as a fairly happy-looking movie, but the finished product is not happy at all. I would say the depressing-to-joyful ratio is 90/10. Those happy moments take some time, and they are isolated, but the wait for them was worth it. I particularly like the sequence where she meets a couple after her show and asks them for dinner. It’s a wonderful sequence and perhaps my favorite in the whole film.

Judy is a solid film with a career-best performance from Zellweger, and it’s the best lead performance from an actress of the entire year. The musical set pieces are wonderful and the cast is filled with solid work from just about everyone. It’s not an easy film to watch, and it definitely isn’t filled with happiness, but then again, it’s exactly the film that would have encompassed the tone of Garland’s final years. Her life was troubled, and it wasn’t filled with only happy moments. All the same, I was so blown away by the lead performance and I cannot recommend this character study enough.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Interview (2014)

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Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen

Cast: Seth Rogen, James Franco

Screenplay: Dan Sterling

112 mins. Rated R for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence.

 

Last year, a film was made, one that almost never saw the light of day thanks to terrorism. In the course of a few days, buzz around The Interview skyrocketed after a threats were made to Sony concerning its release. Theaters around the country pulled the film and refused to show it. It was a sad day to be an artist in America. It didn’t matter what kind of art was pulled, the fact that we were afraid to express ourselves showed more weakness than I could have imagined.

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But then, Sony came to the rescue. They released the film on online platforms. You can’t bomb online platforms (well, the danger was still there). Youtube released it. Netflix released it. Then, stores put it on shelves and we proved to the evils of the world that we are not going to stand for it (cue the inspirational battle hymn). Well, anyway, that happened, and it helped cement The Interview in the annals of American film history, but there was still one unanswered question: was the film any good?

In The Interview, the new comedy from directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen (This is the End), we follow Rogen as Aaron Rapaport, producer for the talk show Skylark Tonight, featuring his friend Dave Skylark (James Franco, 127 Hours, True Story). The show is a fledgling one, more of a witch hunt show searching for shock and awe rather than inspirational or interesting television. That is, until they get an interview with Kim Jong-Un after finding that the dictator is a fan of the show. The two are then enlisted by the US government to assassinate the world leader during the interview and save countless lives (that’s right, it does bleed controversy).

The performances by the two leads are goofy and a little stupid, the cinematography looks cheap and a little stupid, and the pacing is way off. It’s a little stupid. With all that, the film does have its charms, but I do struggle to remember a moment where I laughed out loud. There were a few “that’s funny” moments but no guffaws. I wanted some damn guffaws.

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All in all, does The Interview deserve to be remembered the way it will be? Probably not. I found it to be a goofy somewhat comedic romp with little true substance outside its controversy.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Theory of Everything (2014)

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Director: James Marsh

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones

Screenplay: Andrew McCarten

123 mins. Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and suggestive material.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Eddie Redmayne)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Felicity Jones)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

 

In The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables, Jupiter Ascending) portrays Stephen Hawking in the years chronicling his debilitating disease and the unstoppable will of the human mind as his relationship with eventual wife Jane (Felicity Jones, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, True Story) heads through its most difficult steps.

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Eddie Redmayne absolutely perfects the art of becoming a human being in his portrayal of Mr. Hawking. There are so many times when I watched this movie and forgot I was watching a movie. His performance is so layered with emotional resonance, even as his disease progresses, that it becomes difficult to discern when he is speaking his lines from when his eyes convey his communication.

Felicity Jones provides pretty great, though somewhat overshadowed, work as Jane Hawking, a woman tortured by promises and unbeatable devotion to her husband. These two have tremendous chemistry.

Director James Marsh begins his films with breathtaking visuals symbolizing Hawking’s great mind but it eventually fades away which is sad as I found it to be a wholly engaging bit of visual spectacle that threads the movie together in an almost mystical way.

The Oscar-nominated score is an engaging one, a numeric tone of simple patterns used well.

Did anyone else notice that the end credits are in reverse as homage to the underlying theme of time’s nonlinear presentation.

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The Theory of Everything misses the visual marks that could make it extraordinary. Thankfully, the film is built on the wonderful chemistry of definitive stars Redmayne and Jones. It isn’t the best picture of 2014, but it is a remarkable character study of one of the most interesting characters in history.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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