Renee Zellweger's unapproved-by-Liza-Minnelli Judy Garland London era biopic Judy premiered last night in Toronto to what could be the warmest reception of the festival. Like Just Mercy's eight-minute standing ovation and others for Pain and Glory, Uncut Gems, Waves and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Judy got a rapturous reception from the crowd in the form of two standing ovations for Renee. It left her in tears. Variety's Jenelle Riley called it the most enthusiastic one she's seen in 15 years of covering the festival.
In 15 years at #TIFF I have never seen a standing ovation like the one for Renee Zellweger at JUDY. I started this about a minute into it and it only stopped because she made us. pic.twitter.com/NGXWLMbDxm— Jenelle Riley (@jenelleriley) September 11, 2019
And it goes beyond the "biz" too. It's all my non-industry friends and family want to talk to me about. Does Renee sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow?” Does she do Judy justice? Is it better than she was in Chicago? How many "e"s in Renee-ssaince? OK, that last one was me.
There’s no denying Renee is terrific in the role. Her eyelids are so emotive, and you’re right there with her throughout her struggles with loneliness, addiction, desperate for both public affection and love from her family. Canadian reviews are under embargo, but some believe that Renee’s Judy blows off the screen and overpowers the film, not unlike, say, Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, or Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody – both Oscar-winning parts in movies that some did not consider up to par with their lead performances. Still, you cannot overstate how deeply her portrayal of Judy is resonating with people, even if it’s harder to win over certain fans who are tied to Judy Davis’s work in Me and My Shadows, or wonder what Anne Hathaway’s take on “Get Happy” would have looked like, and the many, many Hollywood “legends” of Judy. Most people have their favourite “Judy,” or connect with a particular “Judy” era more than others. And this film’s version of her late-era concert residency in London is just one chapter in her fascinating, well-documented life. To promote this particular part of Judy’s life, Renee’s been opening up about hers – speaking out in a fascinating New York Magazine cover story about the “humiliation” surrounding those plastic surgery rumours, her quickie Kenny Chesney marriage, and her life as a public figure. It’s quite candid, and well worth your time.
But, back to the TIFF premiere. Renee’s periwinkle blue, boat-neck Ulyana Sergeenko is just a little similar to what Judy wore in A Star is Born, and perhaps I’m just projecting, but if the comparison was made about Lady Gaga at the Globes in January in honour of her version of ASIB, why not for Renee too?
Renee won Best Supporting Actress in 2004 for Cold Mountain. An Oscar winner is an Oscar winner, of course. But an Oscar winner in a LEAD role, for them, is…well…you know.