The last couple of years have seen a rise in musical-based fare, with a strong leaning in on musical biopics. From Bohemian Rhapsody to Rocketman, these films are the new Oscar-bait. They bring in the box office proceeds while also providing movies the Academy can feel good about voting for that viewers tuning in will have seen. (Not to mention they build in musical performances to the Oscar ceremony.) The latest is the Judy Garland biopic, Judy. And like the musical biopics before it, these Judy ratings prove critics are still eating the format up.
To be fair, Bohemian Rhapsody, the Queen centered film starring Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, was not nearly as beloved by critics. It only scored a 61% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, still fresh, but only by a cat's whisker. Rocketman was far stronger. It scored an 89% fresh rating for the "fantasy musical" based on the life of Elton John, and Taron Egerton should not be counted out in the Best Actor race.
Judy looks to be falling in the latter camp with Rocketman. The film, which stars Renee Zellweger as the late Judy Garland in her final years, currently is ranked at 87% fresh, with 82 reviews logged.
Lindsey Bahr of the Associated Press says the film works because of Zellweger:
Judy is itself a fine and imperfect look at some of Garland's last years of life, but it really should have been something transcendent - Zellweger's performance demands it.
Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal concurs.
Singing in her own voice, body hunched and eyes squinting against the light, [Renée Zellweger] summons up the desperate fervor of a woman who has lived most of her life on parallel starvation diets, one lacking for food and the other for love.
And Sara Stewart of the New York Post says it's got a rendition of Judy Garland's best-known song for the ages.
No matter how well you know "Over the Rainbow," you may never hear it as heartbreakingly performed as Zellweger sings it here.
As for how Judy will play at the box office, unlike Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody, it is not opening in full release on opening weekend. Instead, it's going the slow, limited-release route and then adding theaters as it goes on. According to Variety:
In limited release, Roadside Attractions is unveiling Judy, a biographical drama about Judy Garland, on 457 screens. It premiered to rave reviews at this year’s Telluride Film Festival and launched Renee Zellweger into the awards conversation for her portrayal of the famed actress.
Most box office prognosticators are looking to Abominable to pull out the weekend. Though after underestimating Downton Abbey's opening weekend by double digits, many are hedging. Judy won't be able to pull the same upset since it's going for the slow burn route. But it is a better plan to aim for an award season favorite. With Zellweger earning praise on the film festival circuit, and a planned modest box office showing, Judy could be one to watch come January of 2020.
Judy opens on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.