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After a few years away from the public eye, Oscar winning actress Renee Zellweger is having a serious resurgence. After starring in her own Netflix series What/If, Zellweger returned to theaters in a big way with Rupert Goold's Judy. The biopic focuses on the later life of the iconic Judy Garland, with Zellweger tasked with transforming into the beloved actress/singer. The Chicago star lent her singing voice to the screen once again, although she didn't need the same vocal range as Garland.
Renee Zellweger sang some of Judy Garland's most iconic tracks in Judy, including the "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "The Trolley Song". Zellweger trained extensively to transform her singing voice, although she doesn't hit some of those big money notes that Garland was known for. But this was all purposeful, as Garland was older and more erratic during her London concert series. As director Rupert Goold explained it:
The Judy we’re looking at in 1969 didn’t have the vocal instrument she did in her Carnegie Hall recital days, say, but the range was still there albeit more erratic, so Renée was going for that, and more of a performance around what it is – what it really means – to sing.
Well, that certainly makes sense. Judy Garland is shown struggling to maintain her health and voice throughout the course of Judy. The years have not been kind to the the actress, and taking a serious toll on her vocal health. As such, she was singing in lower keys, rather than the original versions. This assisted Zellwegger's process, and also informed the way she approached each musical number as an actress.
Rupert Goold's comments to Classic FM show how methodically the work in Judy was approached, with the director attempting an honest portrayal of Judy Garland's life in 1969. The film follows Judy Garland as she does a residency across the pond. She's struggling with money, attempting to make enough in concerts to buy a home for her family. Throughout it she balances love and personal struggles, while continuing to entertain and charm on stage.
The movie features some of the most iconic songs fro Judy Garland's catalogue, with Renee Zellweger singing a whopping twelve songs for Judy's soundtrack. She sounds distinctly different from how her voice worked as Roxie Hart in Chicago. Her vibrato is slowed down, and even her placement feels different. So in addition to singing some truly beloved standards, Zellweger was tasked with the additional task of adjusting her voice to more closely resemble Garland at age 47.
Renee Zellweger clearly put her all into Judy, and its an effort that has paid off critically. Her performance as Garland has been universally acclaimed, and early talks indicate she might have Oscar chances this coming Awards Season. It'll be interesting to see what her chances at the various film awards could be like as we get closer to the individual ceremonies. But we may be seeing the start of a Renee-ssance.
Judy is in theaters now. Be sure to check out our 2019 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.