Welcome to the 2019 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you in the coming year (at least at this time of writing). The series analyzes the films and their awards season potential, most notably for the Academy Awards, based on the talents attached, filmmakers involved, and story and source material. Monday through Friday until mid-May, AwardsCircuit will bring you a new and exciting project and discuss its chances for success. If you have a suggestion for a movie we should cover, include it in the comments section below. If you miss a film covered, click on the tag or category for “Awards Profile.”
DISTRIBUTOR: Roadside Attractions
DIRECTOR: Rupert Goold
PRODUCERS: Lee Dean, Aaron Levene, David Livingstone, Cameron McCracken, Andrea Scarso, Jim Spencer
WRITER(S): Tom Edge, based on the stage play “End of the Rainbow” by Peter Quilter
CAST: Renee Zellweger, Bella Ramsey, Jessie Buckley, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Finn Wittrock, Andy Nyman, Fenella Woolgar, Royce Pierreson, Darci Shaw, John Dagleish, Phil Dunster, Gemma-Leah Devereux
SYNOPSIS: Legendary performer Judy Garland arrives in London in the winter of 1968 to perform a series of sold-out concerts. (IMDB)
SCHEDULED RELEASE: September 27, 2019
Audiences and pundits alike seem primed and ready for a Renée Zellweger comeback. The Oscar winning actress took a six-year break from work between 2010 – 2016. She returned for “Bridget Jones’ Baby,” reprising her Oscar-nominated role as the title character. The film was a worldwide hit but failed to match the box office success of previous entries in the series. This was especially true in the U.S., where it grossed a measly $24 million in September of 2016. While she’s done a few independent films in the years since “Judy” marks the first major starring role for Zellweger since then. She will also headline the new Netflix erotic thriller anthology series “What/If,” which airs May 24. If Zellweger was looking to stage a comeback, this is what it would look like.
The film’s subject matter screams Oscar, as Zellweger portrays the legendary actress Judy Garland. Lead roles in biopics often lead to Oscar nominations and wins (three of last year’s Oscar winners played real historical figures). Just last year, audiences saw Lady Gaga nominated for taking over Judy’s iconic role in “A Star is Born.”
Movies about Hollywood and old-Hollywood stars also tend to do well. “Argo,” “The Artist,” and “Birdman” were all recent Best Picture winners that captured a specific part of the entertainment industry. Even “Trumbo,” which takes place during the same period “Judy” is set, received a Best Actor nomination for Bryan Cranston, despite mixed reviews and poor box office.
If nothing else, the film could easily contend in a number of craft categories thanks to its period setting. Already, the photo of Renée Zellweger replicating a famed Judy Garland concert has drawn interest, particularly for the costume and hairstyling work. Costume designer Jayne Temime has yet to receive an Oscar nomination, however, she has worked in Old Hollywood before (“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”), on high profile blockbusters (“Harry Potter” series, “Skyfall”) and on Oscar friendly fare (“Gravity,” “Children of Men”). Additionally, Oscar winning composer Gabriel Yared is orchestrating the film’s score. Yared won the Oscar for “The English Patient” and was also nominated for two more Anthony Minghella films (“The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Cold Mountain”).
The degree of difficulty is high for films where actors emulate movie stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age, and few legends are greater than Judy Garland. Zellweger will have to be beyond reproach for critics to not discount her performance. Tackling old Hollywood didn’t help “Saving Mr. Banks,” “Hitchcock,” “Hail, Caesar” or “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” to major Oscar nominations. Plus, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” also looks at Hollywood during this same time period. Will voters be more taken with Quentin Tarantino’s version of the era than “Judy?”
Other than Renee Zellweger, there are very few other Oscar players in the mix in front or behind the camera. Director Rupert Goold has only one other theatrical film credit (“True Story” with James Franco and Jonah Hill). Some filmmakers receive nominations early in their careers. Could this be a sign that “Judy” is going to be less of an awards contender outside of Actress, Costumes and Score?
Biopics usually make more waves when the real-life subjects support the films. The remaining members of Queen were around for every step of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” awards push, even if critics still felt the film didn’t properly portray Freddie Mercury. Already, Oscar winner Liza Minnelli, Garland’s daughter, has denounced the film. “I do not approve nor sanction the upcoming film about Judy Garland in any way,” she said in a Facebook post. Will this lack of support sink the film?
POTENTIAL AWARD CATEGORIES IN PLAY:
- Motion Picture (Lee Dean, Aaron Levene, David Livingstone, Cameron McCracken, Andrea Scarso, Jim Spencer)
- Actress in a Leading Role (Renee Zellweger)
- Actor in a Supporting Role (Michael Gambon)
- Adapted Screenplay (Tom Edge)
- Costume Design (Jany Temime)
- Film Editing (Melanie Oliver)
- Makeup and Hairstyling (To be announced)
- Sound Mixing (To be announced)
- Sound Editing (To be announced)
- Original Score (Gabriel Yared)
POTENTIAL KEY NOTICES FROM OTHER GROUPS
- Best Lead Actress, Musical/Comedy (Golden Globes): No matter the reception of the movie, Renée Zellweger seems like a strong bet to show up at the Golden Globes. The only thing they love more than movie stars is movie stars playing other movie stars. If she misses here, her Oscar hopes are virtually over.
- Best Picture, Musical/Comedy (Golden Globes): If “Judy” looks to contend in multiple categories, it must first make the Golden Globes Musical/Comedy lineup. This suggests there may be more than just the central performance.