By Dan Clendenin
Judy Garland (1922–1969) will always be remembered as the wholesome Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. That film was released in 1939, and by that time Garland was well on her way to a lifetime of personal struggles that ended with her death at the age of forty-seven from an accidental barbiturate overdose. This bio-pic features an Oscar-worthy Renee Zellweger as Garland, and except for repeated flashbacks to her childhood, it covers the last six months of her life. By 1969, Garland’s life was in free fall. She was pretty much homeless and unemployable. Her decades of alcohol and drug addiction were well-known, as were her financial problems. She would marry five times. She had been used and abused by Hollywood and her own money managers. And so, as a last resort, she went to London to do a five-week run at a night club. She died in London about six months after those shows. This is a painful movie to watch. I resonated with Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli, who criticized the film. Despite Zellweger’s remarkable performance (she sang all the songs herself), in some ways it felt like one more financial exploitation of a personal tragedy. And as a final irony, Zellweger herself has recently returned from a six-year hiatus from Hollywood because she did not like the person she was becoming in that environment.
Dan Clendenin: email@example.com
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