Strangely enough, I have only seen one of the other Oscar-nominated performances for this year: Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story. It’s possible that Cynthia Erivo, Saoirse Ronan, or Charlize Theron were better than Renée Zellweger … but I strongly doubt it. This is one of those uncanny performances where the actress channels the part so strongly that she disappears into the role, actually seems to become Judy Garland. Zellweger really doesn’t look like herself at all. And I’m not talking about her controversial (as if it’s anyone’s business!) plastic surgery from a few years ago. She simply looks, acts, and sounds like Garland. The end sequence is just beyond wonderful, with Judy singing her heart out on stage before an initially hostile audience.
The movie itself is not without its flaws. As in the recent Stan and Ollie, I could have wished for this performance to grace a picture that wasn’t from the tragic end of a great career, but from some other period. I am not that fond of tearjerkers like that. Judy was treated abominably by Louis B. Mayer and MGM, forcing a young girl to work insane hours because they knew that child stars didn’t usually last into adult stardom, so they wished to squeeze every last dime out of her before she fell out of fashion. In the end, she was a star for years after childhood, though later becoming an unreliable drug-hazed shadow of herself by the time this movie portrays. At her worst, she still was able to make the best version (by far, and fuck Lady Gaga) of A Star is Born. And who hooked her on pills? Why, Mayer and MGM, of course! And so the world lost a great talent who might have lingered as long as Streisand has. So, so sad.