Food: Greenpoint is a host for unique and delicious spots, and this week I ventured out to enjoy a meal at Esme. My aunt, uncle and I opted to get a bunch of appetizers and entrees to split: 1) Cauliflower soup with scallions & smoked paprika oil, 2) Beets with brussels sprouts, fingerling potato, horseradish creme & dill, and vinaigrette, 3) Caramelized cauliflower with raisins, capers, almonds & brown butter vinaigrette, 4) Ricotta cavatelli with savoy cabbage, brussels sprouts, smoked shitake, parmesan & poached egg, and lastly, 5) the Crispy polenta with mushroom bolognese, herbed ricotta and fennel. All of it meshed incredibly well, and left you feeling full, but not uncomfortable. Can’t wait to go back!
Film: “Judy” (2019) is a biopic about the beloved late Judy Garland, a Hollywood heroine who rose to stardom after appearing in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) at the young age of sixteen and went on to become the youngest and first female recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for a lifetime achievement in the film industry by 39 years old.
Following a second devastating suicide attempt, Bing Crosby, a friend of hers, had invited her on his radio show to help invigorate her career, which it did, leading to a series of shows in London where she performed tirelessly in the final years of her life. “Judy” picks up here – during her final years, when she was bankrupt and forced to leave her two children with her ex-husband Sidney Luft, and go overseas to give her highly anticipated comeback performances.
Renee Zellwegger is too distinct in appearance to fully disappear into the role of another incredibly distinctive performer, but with the help of prosthetics and Zellwegger’s attention to detail in mastering Garland’s mannerisms, it is a convincing performance. Downtrodden and addicted to a plethora of numbing medications, it is a harrowing piece to watch. To give context to her harsh place in life, the film is interspersed with flashbacks of Garland’s rising stardom at MGM Studios, played by Darci Shaw, under the careful watch of Louis B Mayer (Richard Cordery) and his associates. Together, they fill the young Garland with insecurities about her appearance, and force feed her a cocktail of prescriptions to keep her skinny, tobacco to suppress her appetite, and work her into the ground.
The film assumes that audiences who Judy Garland was at her best. It fails to acknowledge any of the success she had in a way that we can hold onto, erasing it from the story, and focusing solely on these two bookends of her career and short life. It is a tired genre – the biopic that focuses on the miserable final moments of a late artists life, with sporadic flashbacks to better days to show that they were not all that great, and in fact, were the source of the addiction or disfunction that they are buried in at present.
Judy Garland deserved better during her lifetime, that’s for sure. She deserved the world. She should have been given the respect and adoration that she gets posthumously, and she did not deserve greedy husbands who mismanaged and embezzled her hard earned money. Her powerful, brassy and resonate singing voice has remained in the hearts of anyone who has seen her films, or heard the radio at Christmas time, her “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” bringing us back to her on the window sill in “Meet Me In St. Louis” (1944). She appeared in more than two dozen films for MGM. She was and is iconic. However, this film did not capture any of that.
The film failed magnanimously to capture her legacy. Aside from a few charming encounters with adoring fans and a beautiful rendition by Zellwegger of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” we hardly see her venerated at any point in the film, and therefore, giving no reason for audiences to care (despite caring for Garland on our own previously). The film neglects to show her magnetism in Oscar nominated performances (before Gaga) in “A Star is Born” (1954) or “Judgment at Nurembourg” (1961), or her captivating work in “The Clock” (1945) which inspired Richard Linklater’s stunning “Before Sunrise” trilogy. It does not encapsulate the fact that she was the first woman to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1961.
Bottom line is that “Judy” is nowhere near as dazzling as the real Judy, and does not even try to be. And, perhaps it was not of interest to these filmmakers to simply provide audiences with a happy-go-lucky confirmation of her success, but to focus on something darker or more dynamic, yet unexplored about her life. However, the story told here was not that either. There was nothing new and worth watching here, except for Renee Zellwegger’s fully committed performance. Pass.