By Stacia Woycheck, OGT Blog Squad Volunteer
When I first saw that Renee Zellweger was going to play Judy Garland, I felt skepticism invade my thoughts. Although I’ve always enjoyed Renee Zellweger, beginning with from her breakout role in Jerry McGuire to her lovable yet neurotic Bridget Jones movies, I had a hard time envisioning her playing a credible Dorothy. Based on a thirty second commentary in my head, I erased the film from my watchlist.
Last week, a friend came to visit and I thought a trip to the OGT Pop-up would be the perfect activity. I checked the schedule and Judy was the feature film. It was the only choice and afterall, I AM an old Hollywood fan. After floating it out as a possibility, my pal hesitantly accepted and we were off to see Judy.
During the film, I was entranced by the likeness that Zellweger delivered. Her portrayal of Garland is spot on. She captures the cadence of her speech and smoky tone of her voice effortlessly. The child star was a mere 4’ 11” in stature and Ms. Zellweger’s petite presence not only makes and impression of Garland’s size but it mirrors her sometimes jittery, nervous body movements, while at other times showing a giddy jubilance of someone caught in an eternal youth.
The story pulls at your heart strings and offers a window into the abusive culture of early Hollywood. It paints a clear picture of verbal, mental and physical abuse that introduced young actors to narcotics to get them to perform like circus animals to increase the producers bank accounts. The psychological damage is acted out flawlessly as an adult Judy transfers her repressed frustration onto an innocent show producer. At times, the scenes are cringe worthy but offer a very authentic illustration of the ravages of abuse. What is crystal clear is the depth of pain that Garland endured.
After watching the film, I realized I knew little of Garland past her iconic role of Dorothy and now I wanted to know everything about Judy Garland. She was a mere sixteen years old when she starred in MGM’s The Wizard of Oz and is forever emblazoned in our minds as the doe-eyed brunette pig-tailed, blue gingham dress wearing “ray of sunshine” embarking on a journey down the yellow brick road. That seems to be where Judy’s career peaked and her struggles of addiction, financial loss and abusive relationships picked up following her through much of her life.
In my mind’s eye, I thought Judy garland lived to a ripe old age, perhaps it’s because she appears much older, worn, weathered and frail from an unexpectedly hard life. In reality, Garland died at the “gone too soon” age of 47 from an overdose. The film tells the story of her final attempt at following her passion and trying to reignite her singing career and most importantly her role as a mother.
Go for the story. Go for the acting, Go for the singing. Renee Zellweger has resurfaced and shown the depth of her talent with this role that seems like a custom made suit. I’ll expect to see Zellweger on the docket for some awards this year, because, well, she had me at hello.
Stacia’s love of old movies began as a child, when her mother would take her to the matinee to see classics like Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, and The African Queen. She fast became a Humphrey Bogart and Old Hollywood fan. Her favorite class as an undergraduate student was Film Appreciation. She loves the charm of the Old Greenbelt Theater and volunteers to spread the word. She loves to spend time with her husband, play with her dog, and travel (when she isn’t traveling, she is planning her next trip).