Tag Archives: Andy Nyman

Born in a Trunk


by George Wolf

Call it a comeback, a re-introduction or a friendly reminder, but Renee Zellweger’s channeling of Judy Garland is an awards-worthy revelation.

Since winning an Oscar for Cold Mountain over fifteen years ago, Zellweger’s resume has been scattershot and curious enough to make seeing her name on top of the marquee a rather nostalgic blast from the past.

But here, she’s just a blast, bringing a can’t-look-away magnetism to every moment she’s on screen, and leaving a noticeable absence when she’s not.

Based on Peter Quilter’s stage play The End of the Rainbow, Judy shows us a legend struggling to get work and fighting to retain custody of her children. By the late 1960s, daughter Liza was off starting a career of her own, but Judy’s two young kids with producer Sid Luft needed a stable home that Garland could not provide.

Accepting a lucrative offer for a string of concerts in London, Judy leaves her son and daughter with their father in hopes that the British engagement will give her the resources needed to take them back full-time.

Focusing on this late, sad period in Garland’s life is a wise move by director Rupert Goold (True Story) and screenwriter Tom Edge (The Crown). A limited scope can usually provide biopics with a better chance for intimacy, and true to form, Judy’s false notes arrive with the flashbacks to Garland’s days as a child star.

Showcasing her mistreatment as a young cog in the MGM studio system is well-intentioned but unnecessary, the blunt forcefulness of this thread adding little more than jarring interruption.

Zellweger is all we need to feel the tragedy of Garland’s fall. Her portrayal comes fully formed, as both remarkable outward impersonation and a nuanced glimpse into a troubled soul. Nary a movement seems taken for granted by Zellweger, and her delivery of Edge’s memorable dialog is lush with an organic spontaneity.

And though she barely sang publicly before her training for Chicago, Zellweger again shows impressive vocal talent. Of course she can’t match the full richness of the real Judy (who could?), but Zellweger’s style and phrasing are on-point bullseyes, never shrinking from Goold’s extended takes and frequent closeups during some wonderfully vintage musical numbers.

In one of the film’s best moments, Judy joins two male superfans (Andy Nyman, Daniel Cerqueira) for a late night dinner at their apartment. I won’t spoil what happens, but have some tissues handy. It’s a beautifully subtle and truly touching ode to Garland’s status as an early gay icon, and to the universal pain of loneliness.

Ironically, this brilliant performance should bring Zellweger the second act that Judy didn’t live long enough to enjoy. I’m guessing she’ll appreciate it, and I know she’s earned it.

Tell Me a Story

Ghost Stories

by Hope Madden

Billed as a return to the old-school British horror anthology, Ghost Stories takes us through three paranormal cases passed from the chief investigator to a colleague he’s hoping can prove them false.

Ghost Stories is based on a popular stage play written by the film’s own co-writers and co-directors, Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson. Nyman also stars as Professor Goodman, the paranormalist who agrees to look into the trio of cases that muddled his hero and mentor.

The movie invests far more in this set up than expected, developing a fascinating connecting tale rather than a simple framing device that holds together a handful of otherwise disconnected shorts. Instead, we get a deeper story, one that influences and is influenced by the shorts in ways more organic than the run-of-the-mill anthology.

And though the three individual shorts contain nothing extraordinary in the way of scares, each offers a richly developed world full of detail and shadow. Every short has its own personality and style, although they all contain puzzle pieces that provide a coherence to the overall story, little items that range from the peculiar to the outright spooky.

A great deal of the success lies in the wonderfully human portrayal delivered by Nyman, who conveys humility, pomposity, self-righteousness, pity and terror in turns without ever hitting a false note. Other solid performances pepper the film. Martin Freeman is particularly engaging. Paul Whitehouse and Alex Lawther also bring uniquely high-strung characters to life.

As scares go, the first short packs the biggest wallop. A night guard at a dilapidated old asylum for women sees and hears strange things, leading to horror.

If that sounds like well-worn territory, that’s because it is. In fact, the three short films themselves don’t deliver much in the way of new scares, but that isn’t Nyman and Dyson’s intention. The terror here is far less paranormal than existential, and clever clues combine with crisp writing to create a full picture that’s more satisfying than it should probably be.