Judy (2019)

Film and Plot Synopsis

In the winter of 1968, showbiz legend Judy Garland arrives in London to perform a five-week sold-out run at The Talk of the Town. It’s been 30 years since she shot to global stardom in The Wizard of Oz, but if her voice has weakened, its dramatic intensity has only grown. As she prepares for the show, she battles with management, charms musicians, and reminisces with friends and adoring fans; her wit and warmth shine through. Even her dreams of love seem undimmed as she embarks on a whirlwind romance with Mickey Deans, her soon-to-be fifth husband.

‘Judy’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Judy (2019)Judy begins with a 14-year-old Judy Garland (Darci Shaw) meeting with her studio manager Louis B. Mayer (Richard Cordery). Judy is expressing how she wants to hang out like the other kids her age, but Mayer insists that her talent and her voice set her apart from other kids. The studio head tells her that if she wants to lead an ordinary life, one of pedestrian values, she can go and do the things that other kids do. Alternatively, he suggests she can lead an extraordinary life, one that will make her rich and famous, by using her gifts. Reluctantly, Judy gives into the insistence of Mayer and does her audition for The Wizard of Oz.

The film then jumps in time to Judy (Renée Zellweger) in her forties. Judy is grinding out a career making appearances in low paying shows, usually accompanied by her two younger children, Lorna Luft (Bella Ramsey) and Joseph “Joey” Luft (Lewin Lloyd). One night after a performance, Judy returns to her home in a suite of a hotel only to find out that she has been kicked out for not paying her bills.

With no place to stay, she goes to her ex-husband’s, Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell), house for the night. Angry at her transient lifestyle, Sidney tells her that he is going to file for custody of the children during the school year due to Judy’s instability. Judy leaves Sidney’s house and goes to a Hollywood party where she sees her adult daughter, Liza Minnelli (Gemma-Leah Devereux), and meets Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock), a nightclub owner that she becomes close friends with.

The film then jumps back in time to Judy’s teenage years. She and Mickey Rooney (Gus Barry) are doing promotions for one of their films and are pretending to have lunch together in front of the press. Judy’s studio minder prohibits Judy from actually eating and provides her with amphetamine to help control her appetite.

We then return to 1968, where Judy is being advised by her agent that for her to make any money that she will need to go to Britain to perform. Unfortunately, Judy is also told that she will not be able to take her children with her out of the country, so she will be traveling alone, something Judy despises doing.

When she arrives in London, she is greeted with well wishers and adoring fans. However, Judy is reluctant to rehearse and on the night of the London premiere, she fails to show up on time due to her anxiety. Her handlers must dress her and rush her to the venue, and literally push her out on stage. Once on stage, Judy’s performance is excellent, and her fans shower her with applause.

The film flashes back to Judy at 14-years-old again. This time, Judy complains about being fed with pills to help her keep up with her demanding performance schedule. When her handler tells her that they are going to shoot a promotional piece for her fifteenth birthday, which is two months away, she demands her lunch break, and strips off her dress and jumps into a water tank on the stage in defiance of the studio.

Thirty years later, Judy meets two adoring homosexual fans at the stage door after a performance in London. Alone in the city, she invites herself to have dinner with them, and they take her back to their humble apartment. The three bond over their difficulties and share some meager food. Judy sings a sad version of “Get Happy” while her fan plays the piano.

The next day, Mickey Deans shows up for a surprise visit in London, which improves Judy’s mood tremendously. Despite her improved mood, Judy continues to have difficulties making it to her performances on time due to her severe anxiety and substance abuse problems. The situation is only amplified by the much younger Mickey who feeds Judy’s substance abuse problems and fills her head with bizarre projects. During one performance, Judy is extremely late and begins hurling insults at the band and the audience in a drunken stupor.

The film flashes back to a young Judy again. Mayer lectures Judy for unprofessional behavior. Through a combination of physical intimidation and emotional abuse, he gets Judy to apologize despite her exhaustion.

The film returns to the adult Judy, who is apologizing to her promoter (Michael Gambon) for her alcoholic behavior. Judy lies and says she was not feeling well. The promoter sends her to see a voice specialist medical doctor. Judy confesses to the doctor that she had a tracheotomy several years before which weakened her voice. The doctor diagnoses her with hepatitis and mental exhaustion, which require rest for her to recover. However, Judy continues to perform.

Meanwhile, her relationship with Mickey continues to strengthen, and she asks him to marry her. He is reluctant, but ultimately agrees to marry Judy and become her fifth husband. After the wedding, Judy continues to have success singing in Great Britain, while Mickey tries to line up other deals, possibly taking her back to the United States so that she can be closer to her children.

Sidney shows up and tries to convince Judy to give him custody, which Judy refuses to do. Sidney tells her that the kids want to stay with him, which Judy refuses to believe. The same day, Mickey returns and tells her that the other deals did not work out and Judy will need to stay in Great Britain to continuing paying the bills. The two fight and Mickey says he is leaving her.

At her next performance, Judy passes out on stage and is heckled. Ashamed, she leaves the stage and subsequently calls her daughter Lorna. She tells her daughter that it is okay to tell her if she is happier living with her father, which her daughter does. Crushed, Judy tells her daughter that she loves her and hangs up. Judy decides to end her British singing engagement and return home.

A few days later, Judy returns to the music hall. She asks to sing one last performance before going. She sings a rousing version of “Come Rain or Come Shine” which brings the audience to their feet. While singing “Over the Rainbow”, she breaks down crying. However, she recovers when some members of the audience take over the song for her. Grateful, Judy asks the audience “You won’t forget me, will you?” The audience applauds, and Judy ends her performance by saying “Promise you won’t.”

The film’s epilogue states that Judy died six months later, at the age of 47.

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Roadside Attractions released Judy on October 4, 2019. Rupert Goold directed the film starring Renée Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, and Finn Wittrock.

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