Tag Archives: Renee Zellweger

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.

Blinder Side

Same Kind of Different as Me

by George Wolf

It’s been over a year since the trailer for Same Kind of Different as Me arrived, and was promptly met with the widespread mockery it deserved.

Planned release dates came and went. Was it retooling, or rethinking? Maybe they weren’t really going to put out a film with so much apparent racial condescension and white guilt?

They were, they are, they did.

It’s based on the best selling memoir – steady yourself if you haven’t heard this title – Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together.


Ron and Debbie Hall (Greg Kinnear and Renee Zellweger) were rich white Texans in an unhappy marriage. They met homeless man Denver Moore (Djimon Hounsou) and struck up a friendship which led to millions of dollars raised for the needy.

It’s a nice story. Helping thy neighbor is a lovely message. Why does it have to be delivered this way?

Denver seems like an interesting character, and he’s listed as a co-author on the book. Did anyone think to tell the story from his point of view?

No, we must get more precious white saviors, and celebrate them for taking a black friend to their white country club while they wash their hands of violent racism with empty voiceovers (of course there are voiceovers!) such as “there are things I just don’t understand.”

Bless your heart.

Not one thing in director/co-writer Michael Carney’s feature debut feels authentic. Even smaller details, like Debbie sleeping in full makeup or a young, poverty-stricken Denver sporting gleaming straight teeth, feed the notion that this is all just a self-congratulatory show.

Well, congratulations, this might even be worse than The Blind Slide.


Bridget Jones, Back in Medium-Rare Form

Bridget Jones’s Baby

by Matt Weiner

It’s been over a decade since Bridget Jones last went through an embarrassing series of personal and professional mishaps on the way to learning that opposites attract after all. Anyone expecting a change in formula will be disappointed, but there are worse ways to spend two hours finding Mr. Right (again) than with Jones, thanks in large part to Renée Zellweger.

Zellweger grounds Jones this time around as quirky, confident and—more or less—competent TV news producer. Colin firth returns as the priggish Mark Darcy, and Patrick Dempsey steps into the Hugh Grant point on the love triangle as the charming Jack Qwant. (Metaphor alert: Qwant made a fortune off a dating website but hasn’t found his own perfect match.)

Jones has one-night stands with both men, getting pregnant by one of them and setting off a competition between the suitors to prove their worth as potential fathers—and win Jones’s heart in the process. (A fear of needles rules out the in-utero test that would’ve made for a much briefer film.)

Despite the tension the film wants to set up between Darcy and Qwant, the best running theme for much of the movie is that Jones doesn’t need either of the boobs vying for her. And it’s a credit to the film that the madcap finale turns out some of the movie’s biggest laughs without cheapening everything Jones has done to get to that point.

Bridget Jones stands on her own far more in this film than the previous two, with most of the supporting characters—from best friend Miranda (Sarah Solemani) to Darcy and Qwant—simply along for well-timed banter or convenient plot devices. Two exceptions are Bridget’s father, Colin—filled with a depth of emotion that far exceeds Jim Broadbent’s criminal lack of screen time—and Bridget’s physician, Dr. Rawlings (Emma Thompson). Thompson delivers every line and fixes every stare with the tart awareness that reduces the men in Bridget’s life from masters of the universe to emperors with no clothes.

Bridget Jones’s Baby is directed by Sharon Maguire—who also directed the first Jones film, Bridget Jones’s Diary—and the latest entry is a welcome improvement on 2004’s inane Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. But the film has little of the light touch and keen observation that made Bridget Jones’s Diary a refreshing romantic comedy back in 2001.

This latest installment doesn’t break any new ground for romcoms. The satire is easy, toothless and, somehow, already dated. But this marks a comfortable return for Bridget Jones. She’s hard to root against even in bad times. Maybe it’s unfair to grade on a curve, but we’ve seen Jones much worse off than this. It’s hard not to crack a smile when she’s on top.