The actress’ performance as Judy Garland has earned rave reviews.
Renée Zellweger stepped away from the spotlight from 2010-2016. Beginning with Bridget Jones’s Baby and a handful of other roles she’s slowly come back since then, including the Netflix series “What/If.”
With this week’s Judy the return to stardom seems complete. Zellweger plays Judy Garland, but instead of being a general biopic that follows its subject from early through later years, this movie focuses on one specific part of Garland’s life. Specifically, it takes place in 1968 when Garland is short on opportunities and anxious to continue providing for her family. She’s offered an engagement in London, where she meets Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock), who years later would become her fifth husband.
The campaign mounted by Roadside Attractions and LD Entertainment has worked to showcase the kind of struggles faced by Garland at the time she headed to London for the five weeks of sold out shows. Mostly, though, it’s worked to showcase how fully Zellweger has fully taken on the look, feel and mannerisms of Garland to tell a key chapter in the later years of a Hollywood legend.
Zellweger as Garland is decked out in a dressy worthy of a night at the club on the first poster (by marketing agency Empire Design), released in May. She’s looking classy and elegant, with the actress seeming to fully inhabit the role. Copy below the title promises to show audiences “the legend behind the rainbow.”
The second poster (by marketing agency LA) was released in July and sports a similar approach, showing Zellweger as Garland in an appropriate showbiz setting. This time she’s placed in front of a bank of stage lights and shown in stark black-and-white.
The first brief teaser (639,000 views on YouTube) released in May focuses on the ups and downs of Garland’s career and personal life. There’s no dialogue, just a version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as performed by Zellweger that plays over the footage.
We get a more complete picture in the second trailer (1.5 million views on YouTube), released in early July. Judy’s career is in a rough patch when she agrees to travel to London for a series of performances that could help her financially, even as she struggles with leaving her kids behind to do so. Her anxiety over performing sometimes gets the better of her, a situation not made any better by her addictions, but a budding romance with a younger man helps in some ways. It’s a drama being sold here about a woman struggling to make her mark and be a good mother even while, as we see at the end, she fears she’ll be forgotten by everyone else.
Online and Social
While the front page of the official website is very nice with its full-screen video, the content of the site isn’t all that engaging and is easily browsed in just a few minutes. No additional information or background on Garland or anything else that may add context to the movie and story.
Advertising and Publicity
The Toronto Film Festival announced the movie would screen in the “Special Presentations” section of this year’s event. It also played at Venice and had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival.
At the end of August, Zellweger’s version of “Over the Rainbow,” Garland’s signature piece from The Wizard of Oz, was released, allowing the studio to show off the vocal performance of the star, a key selling point of the film.
Commercials began running on TV in early September that showed the drama of Garland’s life and the choices – and compromises – she has to make in order to support her family. Another simply held her up as an iconic voice looking to maintain her legacy.
The TIFF screening was notable for the extended standing ovation it received, with much of the buzz coming out of Toronto being about Zellweger’s performance in the title role.
A featurette released at the same time the movie was making headlines in Toronto had the cast and crew, as well as folks who witnessed the events depicted in the film firsthand, talking about Garland and Zellweger’s performance.
Late last week The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosted the Los Angeles premiere of the film, with appearances by the cast and crew along with others and a renewed belief Zellweger will be among the frontrunners as awards season approaches.
Media and Press
Things really kicked off when a first-look photo of Zellweger as Garland was shared even before the movie had U.S. distribution, which was finally solidified with a partnership between LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions.
A minor firestorm emerged when Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli publicly disavowed the movie, saying she had never spoken to anyone involved and did not sanction it in any way.
In mid-August a handful of exclusive stills showed more looks at the film.
An interview with Zellweger had her explaining what did or didn’t shock her during her exploration of Garland’s life and how she could relate to some of the actor’s troubles.
Zellweger’s version of “Over the Rainbow” was released in early September.
There was a substantive profile of Zellweger that covered how the actress stepped away from the spotlight for several years, only coming back to the film industry recently.
The cast, along with director Rupert Goold, showed up on “Good Morning America” to offer insights into the movie and share details. Prior to that Zellweger was interviewed on “CBS Sunday Morning” about the film and her career.
The movie’s premiere allowed Zellweger and others to talk about how thrilled they were to be telling the story of Garland and how inspired by her the actress was. She offered similar comments when she appeared on “The Late Show.”
AMC offered an exclusive interview with Zellweger just prior to release.
Zellweger’s time away from the public eye and what she hopes to accomplish with her return were covered in a feature profile that covered many other topics as well.
Zellweger’s tentative comeback from the last few years is now seemingly complete, with her transformative performance earning accolades from the press who were privy to early festival screenings and a campaign that has worked hard to bring her back into the public eye. She is, understandably, the biggest selling point the studio has to offer audiences.
Along with that is an emphasis on the recreation of 1968 London and in particular the nightclub Garland was performing in. That setting is integral to the story and the setting Zellweger’s Garland is operating in. It’s also much more specific than what’s found in many biopics, something the studio has taken advantage of with the featurette and more.
Still, it’s Zellweger that both is and plays the star. That her performance is such a complete change into the legend provides a hook with which the studio can really hook the audience.
Picking Up the Spare
More from the movie’s costume designer about creating the wardrobe that plays a big part in the story.
Zellweger continued talking about how she worked to inhabit the character of Garland.
The woman who was Garland’s assistant during her time in London was interviewed about her time with the star and the reality of the movie.
Another profile of Zellweger that has her talking about her thoughts on Garland and more.