Movie Review

Photo from Sony Pictures Entertainment

By Jeffrey Sanzel

There is no greater American icon than Fred Rogers — the Mr. Rogers of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Generations of children have grown up under the tutelage of the man whose sole quest was to let children be children. His soft-spoken and often simple wisdom has been explored, dissected and parodied for decades. But, ultimately, his pure and honest humanity has shown through.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is inspired by Tom Junod’s 1998 Esquire article “Can You Say … Hero?” Director Marielle Heller and screenwriters Micah Fizterman-Blue and Noah Harpster have chosen the source as a jumping-off place to create the fictional story of an emotionally lost and damaged journalist whose life is altered by profiling the beloved television host.

The film is in no way a biopic of Rogers. If one is seeking an account of Fred Rogers, then the heartfelt 2018 Won’t You Be My Neighbor? documentary explores Rogers with a wealth of archival clips and interviews. It is as both straightforward and as complicated as the man himself and an indispensable contribution to his legacy.

Photo from Sony Pictures Entertainment

Instead, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood draws upon Rogers’ ethos and how it affected and continues to influence the world for good.

Matthew Rhys plays journalist Lloyd Vogel, whose closet full of demons has disconnected him from the world. The story focuses on the dysfunctional relationship with his estranged father (a dimensional Chris Cooper) who walked out on him and his sister when their mother was dying. 

Vogel struggles to communicate with his frustrated wife (the always terrific Susan Kelechi Watson), to face his life as a new father, and to deal with the world in general. At first, he is resistant to the ministrations of Rogers, but gradually, he realizes the power of embracing Rogers’ philosophies. The film is Vogel’s arc, with Rogers a catalyst for change.

Rhys manages the transition from depressed and detached to self-aware and almost reborn with a slow, methodical intensity. It is an unsurprising performance but one in which we can invest. While the resolution is inevitable, his pain is palpable and his growing awareness authentic. 

The surrounding actors are strong and Heller has brought out subtle and absorbing work from the entire company, including Christine Lahti (Ellen, Vogel’s Esquire editor), Enrico Colantoni (Bill Isler, the president of Family Communications), Maryann Plunkett (Joanne Rogers, Fred’s wife), Tammy Blanchard (Lorraine, Vogel’s sister), and Jessica Hecht (Lila Vogel, Vogel’s dying mother). The entire ensemble is fully present, bringing nuance to the action.

However, the heart of the film is Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers. There is no actor more suited to don the sweater than Hanks, and he does not disappoint. Eschewing imitation, Hanks evokes the soul of the man, making sure that his Rogers is not a hagiography. We see joy, pain, introspection and a man who struggles but never ceases to search for peace and understanding in a difficult world.  

And while his screen time does not rival Rhys’, Hanks dominates each moment with an open presence that makes him unique among even the greatest movie actors. Whether engaging with his public, watching a playback of a scene he has just shot or voicing the Neighborhood puppets, he is riveting. A scene that focuses on a moment of silence in a Chinese restaurant is as wondrous as a subway car breaking out into the show’s theme song. It is all reflected in Hanks’ understated yet overwhelming portrayal.  

The takeaway from A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is that we must face life’s trials and that we can grow from these challenges. It is a message — and a film — of which Fred Rogers would approve.

Image from Walt Disney Animation Studios

By Jeffrey Sanzel

In 2013, Disney released Frozen, a computer-animated musical fantasy. Loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen, it was the story of two sisters, Elsa and Anna, and a journey of deep discovery. Visually stunning, with a powerful message of “true love” not being connected to marrying a prince, the film was an international sensation. 

The voice talents of Idina Menzel as Elsa, the princess with the power, and Kristen Bell as Anna, the sibling on a quest, were perfectly supported by Santino Fontana as the seemingly ideal prince, Jonathan Groff as a self-deprecating ice harvester, and a hilarious Josh Gad as the slightly manic snowman obsessed with summer. The delightful score, by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, spawned the anthem “Let It Go.”

Joining the latter-day classics such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, Frozen quickly became an international phenomena, grossing over $1.2 billion. The only surprise is that it took six years for a sequel. Frozen II reunites Menzel, Bell, Groff and Gad, along with a host of additional voice artists.  

Image from Walt Disney Animation Studios

The film opens hopefully with King Agnarr of Arendelle (Alfred Molina) relating the story of the Enchanted Forest to his young daughters, Elsa (voiced by Mattea Conforti) and Anna (an adorable Hadley Gannaway). It sets up the plot of Agnarr’s grandfather, King Runeard (Jeremy Sisto), and a treaty-gone-wrong with the tribe of Northuldra, a clan that posses a deep magic of which the Arendelle are suspicious. 

The film then goes forward to pick up three years after the previous film.  Elsa (Menzel) is queen and keeping her wintry powers in check. Anna (Bell) is a free-spirited princess, now courted by the smitten Kristoff (Groff) who spends most of his screen time attempting to propose, egged on by his reliable reindeer friend, Sven (also voiced by Groff).

What ensues is a complicated mythology involving the elemental spirits of earth, fire, water and air — and a fifth, unnamed element that becomes clear about half-way through. It is a convoluted folklore that is resolved a bit too simply. Ultimately, what is lacking in the plot is true conflict. 

Much of Frozen was driven by the friction and misunderstanding of characters in action — all trying desperately to get what they want — building up to several powerful revelations. They were human and flawed and that made them all the more wonderful. The underlying theme was threaded throughout, and the climax was the wholly satisfying result of overcoming challenges and solving problems. Frozen II substitutes genuine tension and depth for a string of incidents and “adventures” that just don’t build to any surprises.

Image from Walt Disney Animation Studios

The sequel is now without its entertaining moments, and the score (by Lopez and Lopez-Anderson), while not approaching the first’s innovation and delight, is more than serviceable. Gad shines as the chatterbox Olaf, and a highlight is the snowman’s recapping of the entire first movie. It’s a delightful bit of madcap in a film that is sorely lacking moments of humor. Unlike the first that found a wryness even in the darkest moments, Frozen II feel relentlessly serious.  

The additional voice artists are not as well-served as they should be, with some very talented performers given what amounts to glorified cameos: Molina, Sisto, Evan Rachel Wood,  Martha Plimpton and Jason Ritter barely register. It is not so much the length of their screen time but the quality. Sterling K. Brown’s lieutenant shows great promise but  is unfortunately not developed nearly enough.  

There are several pieces that are clearly envisioned toward promotional items. The fire element turns out to be a very cute froglike creature that will no doubt be making its debut in Happy Meals across the country. Rock monsters and water horses are ideal of stickers and folders and whatever else the marketing department can dream up. And what is cuter than a reindeer? Lots of reindeers.

Pictorially, it is breathtaking. The images are beautiful, and there is never a false or inconsistent moment in its landscape. The characters are animated with honesty and project genuine emotion. The fantastic elements are gloriously realized in a true rainbow of variety. But it is this triumph of style over substance that makes the movie fall short on its ability to engage. The film feels not just long but stretched. The scenes meander and then seem to be repeated again 10 minutes later. There is a great deal of padding in the 100+ minutes.

Conceptually, Frozen II probably seemed to be a great idea on paper and, certainly, in its artists’ eyes, it is. One could just wish for a little more fire under the snow.

Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of “When Harry Met Sally” Turner Classic Movies, Warner Bros. and Fathom Events brings the popular rom-com back to 700 select theaters on Dec. 1 and 3. 

The Rob Reiner-directed, Nora Ephron-penned classic was initially released on July 14, 1989 and went on to gross $92.8 million domestically before Ephron’s original screenplay received an Oscar nomination at the following year’s Academy Awards.

Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) meet on a long drive from New York to Chicago — during which Harry claims that women and men can never be “just friends.” Over the years, Harry and Sally keep running into each other, claiming to have nothing more than a platonic friendship — until a climactic New Year’s Eve Party that threatens (or promises) to upend their assumptions about each other and about love. 

Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby co-star in the film, which the BBC, Paste Magazine and Vogue all have called one of the best romantic comedies of all time.

TCM Primetime host Ben Mankiewicz provides commentary and insight prior to each screening of this beguiling comedy.

Participating theaters in our neck of the woods include AMC Loews Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook on Dec. 1  and Dec. 3  at 4 p.m. and again at 7 p.m.; and Island 16 Cinema de Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. To purchase your ticket in advance, visit www.fathomevents.com.

Al Pacino reprises his role as Michael Corleone in the second of ‘The Godfather’ trilogy. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures
An offer you can’t refuse:

In celebration of the 45th anniversary of “The Godfather Part II,” Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events brings the iconic film back to 600 select theaters on Nov. 10, 12 and 13.  

In what is undeniably one of the best sequels ever made, Francis Ford Coppola continues his epic Godfather trilogy with this saga of two generations of power within the Corleone family. 

Coppola, working once again with the author Mario Puzo, crafts two interwoven stories that work as both prequel and sequel to the original. One shows the humble Sicilian beginnings and New York rise of a young Don Vito, played by Robert De Niro in an Oscar-winning performance for Best Supporting Actor. The other shows the ascent of Michael (Al Pacino) as the new don protecting the family business in the aftermath of an attempt on his life. 

Coppola reassembled many of the cast members who helped make “The Godfather” including Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, John Cazale and Talia Shire. Marlon Brando was scheduled to be in one scene but did not show up for filming. The film ended up receiving 11 Academy Awards nominations, winning six including Best Picture of 1974. 

A timeless classic best revered on the big screen, time tested fans and newcomers alike won’t want to miss this special event featuring exclusive insight from TCM Primetime host Ben Mankiewicz before and after the 3-hour, 22-minute film. This event includes a five minute intermission. 

Participating theaters in our neck of the woods include AMC Loews Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook on Nov. 10 at 3 and 7 p.m. and Nov. 12 and 13 at 7 p.m.; Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas, 1001 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale on Nov. 13 at 7 p.m.; and Island 16 Cinema de Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville on Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. To purchase your ticket in advance, visit www.fathomevents.com.

Angelina Jolie returns as the horned antagonist in the Maleficent sequel.

By Heidi Sutton

It’s been five years since Disney brought us the fairy tale Maleficent, a twist on the story of Sleeping Beauty where the focus is not on Aurora who falls into a deep sleep after pricking her finger on a spindle but on the evil fairy who put a curse on the princess in the first place.

Now its darker sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil hits local theaters and does not disappoint. King Stefan is dead and Aurora has been raised by her fairy godmother Maleficent in the Moors, a magical place filled with strange and mythical creatures. Humans and fairies live separate but in peace.

Aurora meets her future mother-in-law in a scene from Maleficent 2.

When Aurora becomes engaged to Prince Phillip, his parents, King John and Queen Ingrith of the Kingdom of Ulstead, invite Aurora and Maleficent to the castle for dinner. It is there that we discover the queen’s true intentions — to frame Maleficent for the murder of the king in order to have cause to declare war on the Moorfolk with devastating consequences.

Fans of the first film will be pleased to know that much of the original cast is back, with the exception of Brenton Thwaites who played Prince Phillip in the first film. Angelina Jolie is back as Maleficent complete with horns, wings and cheek prosthetics; Elle Fanning is the sweet Aurora; Sam Riley returns as Diaval, Maleficent’s loyal servant and pet raven; while Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville reprise their roles as pixies Knotgrass, Thistlewit and Flittle.

Newcomers include the handsome Harris Dickinson as Aurora’s prince, Robert Lindsay as King John, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Conall the Dark Fey and the incredible Michelle Pfeiffer as the villainous Queen Ingrith, aka Aurora’s future mother-in-law from hell.

A scene from Maleficent 2

It’s hard to figure out who director Joachim Ronning’s target audience is. On the one hand, the film is at times very violent, with an intense war scene between the humans and an army of dark fey, an attempted extermination of the Moorfolk in the palace’s church of all places and the sacrifice of one of the film’s most beloved characters. On the flip side, many of the Moors’ inhabitants are borderline silly with big eyes and cute voices and seemed geared toward children.

With a budget of $180 million, the film is visually stunning with special mention to the  scene where an injured Maleficent is rescued by her own kind and given a winged tour of a secret world where the dark fey eek out an existence away from humans. (I predict a new ride at Disney World.) 

In the end, the wedding of Aurora and Phillip serves as a union of the Kingdom of Ulstead and the Moors and a timely lesson against fear, bigotry, racism and intolerance and that makes it worth a view.

Rated PG, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is now playing in local theaters

Photos courtesy of Disney Studios

 

The Addams Family returns to the big screen in time for Halloween. Image courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

By Jeffrey Sanzel

Charles Addams’ delightfully macabre cartoons of the bizarre Addams band first appeared in The New Yorker in 1938. In the subsequent 50 years, this satirical inversion of the nuclear family was featured in dozens of single-panel drawings. In 1964, the live-action series premiered on ABC and was welcomed into American households for two seasons. This was followed by two animated series as well as several reunion specials. 

The franchise was successfully rebooted in 1991 with The Addams Family and the even better sequel Addams Family Values (1993). In 2008, the family got the full Broadway treatment with a musical that has lived on in regional and high school theaters across the country. The first family of Halloween has been seen in everything from board games to drink coasters.  

Nearly 10 years ago, there was news of a Tim Burton stop-motion Addams family to be produced by Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment. However, in 2013, MGM acquired the rights and it is this version that has now been produced as a 3-D animated comedy. Conrad Vernon directs a predictable screenplay by Matt Lieberman and Pamela Pettler.  

It is a shame that Burton was not able to realize his vision. Given his work — particularly The Nightmare Before Christmas — the result would most likely have been more satisfying.

The plot focuses on the threat of the family being pushed out of its haunted mansion by a devious T.V. home renovation host, Margaux Needler, who is building a model community, Assimilation. In addition, son Pugsley will be having his Mazurka celebration (think bar mitzvah with swords) and the entire clan is expected to descend upon the family. Daughter Wednesday becomes curious about the outside world and befriends Needler’s daughter, whom she leads into rebellion.  

While these elements could add up to a terrific satire, it never quite transcends its literalness. There is a pedestrian feel to the constantly repeated theme of all-people-just-want-to-be-accepted-for-who-they-are. Visually, it looks closer to the Saturday morning cartoons, and some of the more famous lines are wedged into the dialogue. In the end, there is something flat and uninspired in the result: The film is less Addams family than it is Hotel Transylvania. One has the sense that the creators were hedging their bets and played it safe with a child-centric film, leaving little for the adult audience. While there are nods to the Addams canon, it never feels like it enters that weird, wonderful world.  

There is a wealth of voice talent, with some utilized better than others. Charlize Theron captures Morticia Addams’ low notes with a fittingly languid affectation. Oscar Issac is a nice compliment as the excitable Gomez. The children are well-realized by an appropriately affectless Chloë Grace Moretz as Wednesday and Finn Wolfhard as the pugnacious Pugsley. Nick Kroll makes an amusing if one-note Uncle Fester. Sadly, Bette Midler is not given enough to do as Grandmama. Other voices include Snoop Dogg (Cousin Itt), Martin Short (Grandpa Frump), Catherine O’Hara (Grandma Frump), Tituss Burgess (Margaux’s agent) and Jenifer Lewis (Great Auntie Sloom). Allison Janney makes the most of the villainous Margaux Needler but there’s almost no opportunity for variety.

The highlight of the film comes at the end, when the television show’s opening sequence is recreated, Vic Mizzy theme song and all.

In its own way, the movie is child-friendly creepy and methodically kooky but with little mystery and certainly not spooky. Ultimately, what’s lacking is what makes the Addams family unique: One is left asking, “Where’s the ooky?”

Rated PG, The Addams Family is now playing in local theaters.

A sensory-friendly screening of Beetlejuice was held at the library in September. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

By Melissa Arnold

Enjoying a movie can be a great way for the entire family to spend some quality time together. But for people who are especially sensitive to light or sound, the experience can be difficult to handle, if not impossible.

At Comsewogue Public Library in Port Jefferson Station, the staff wants to ensure no one is excluded from its programs because of a lack of accessibility. Thanks to a suggestion from a visitor, the library now offers sensory-friendly movie opportunities once a month that are open to all. 

“We’ve always tried to really listen to the community about the needs that they have, and this was something we’d been looking to do for a while,” said Lori Holtz, head of adult services for the Comsewogue Public Library. “We see very regular attendance for this program, which shows us that people are really enjoying the experience.”

Earlier this year, an employee from a local group home for adults approached the library suggesting they try offering sensory-friendly movie screenings, said adult services librarian Christine Parker-Morales, who added that the program has been well-received and is continuing to expand.

According to the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD), at least 1 in 20 adults in the general population may be affected by SPD. For people with these disorders, any kind of sensory stimuli — bright lights or darkness, loud sounds, intense smells, certain clothing textures — can be overwhelming, confusing or disturbing.

Setting up a sensory-friendly movie is a simple process, said Danielle Minard, the library’s outreach librarian. All that’s needed is a bit of extra planning by leaving the lights on, lowering the sound, adding captions and providing advance information about the movie’s storyline and elements. “We try to show films that are fairly current,” Minard added. 

“We began the program this past March with Inside Out and since then, we’ve shown Mary Poppins Returns, Guardians of the Galaxy, Singin’ in the Rain and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” she said. In anticipation of Halloween, Tim Burton’s classic Beetlejuice was screened in September.

There are no special requirements, fees or advance registration required to see the sensory- friendly movies — all are welcome to attend.

“Libraries exist for everyone and we’re here to serve people of every age, regardless of their needs,” said Comsewogue Library Director Debra Engelhardt. “Everyone deserves quality services, and we’re continuing to learn how we can deliver those services better. I’m very proud of everyone’s hard work. I would encourage any community member to bring their interests and needs to their local library. It may take a while to get something started, but it’s our job to make good things happen for everyone who lives in the area.”

Sensory-friendly film screenings are held monthly on Friday mornings at 10:30 a.m. in the Community Room at the Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station. Upcoming screenings will be held Oct. 25 and Nov. 29. The films are not chosen ahead of time, but are appropriate for all ages. For more information, including additional sensory-friendly library programs, call 631-928-1212.

This article has been updated Oct. 22.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as the Joker. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

By Jeffrey Sanzel

Batman’s most infamous nemesis, the Joker, first appeared in the Batman comic book in 1940. Created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson, the psychopathic clown with a sadistic streak has endured for eight decades, being reinvented time and again.  

The Joker was first embodied on the small screen in the 1960s with Cesar Romero’s over-the-top but highly enjoyable take in the camp television series (and subsequent film) Batman. First-billed Jack Nicholson played the criminal with gangster shades in the more serious 1989 Batman film. Heath Ledger received a posthumous Oscar for his twitchy, psychotic anarchist that traded on the character’s insanity and ambiguity in The Dark Knight (2008). Jared Leto took a fairly modern approach with a tattooed and outlandish hoodlum in Suicide Squad (2016).

As for the Joker’s origin, it has been recreated throughout his existence, with no true commitment to who he is and how he came to be. Part of his mystique is this swirling mystery. The Joker is the ultimate unreliable narrator: “Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another … if I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!” (The Killing Joke, 1988).

Which brings us to Joker, the new film from director Todd Phillips, who has co-written the screenplay with Scott Silver. This is not just a rethinking of the character and his world; this is another world entirely, and a brutally real one.  

The Gotham City of Joker is a bleak vision of 1980 New York City, a crime- and rat-infested hell; it is a world mired in corruption where the haves actively keep down the have-nots. There are strong political statements that touch on gun control, living conditions of the disenfranchised and the treatment of mental health. (It should be noted that there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the film and its violence.)  

Phillips presents a back-storied Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a clown whose work is limited to sign-tossing in front of stores and entertaining in children’s hospital wards. He suffers from a neurological disorder that causes him to laugh at inappropriate times. The marginalized Fleck cares for his mother (Frances Conroy, harboring family secrets) in a rundown apartment. Fleck’s great goal is to become a stand-up comic and an unsuccessful attempt contributes to his downward spiral.  

Rather than the tale of a larger-than-life villain — the insane master criminal and homicidal clown — Joker is about society’s rejection of those who need the support the most. The film opens with him being beaten by a group of teenage thugs. Later, Fleck learns that the social services he relies on for his seven medications have been cut. It is this continuous “bad day” scenario that plagues him.  

The already delicate Fleck is driven to his choices by external circumstances. His murder of three Wall Street brokers who are abusing him on the subway becomes freeing. His actions make him a hero to a city that takes up the cry of “Kill the Rich.” Mobs of clown-masked protesters turn the metropolis into a literal hell.

If one separates the history of the character, it is easier to embrace Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. It is a monument of introspection, of ticks, of pain. His Fleck is a man on the brink and then beyond. The camera rarely leaves him for the two-hour running time. Phoenix is the film.

If anything, the character is based less on the Joker and hearkens more to Travis Bickle, the anti-hero of Taxi Driver (1976), with shades of Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy (1982). This is no surprise as the common denominator is Robert DeNiro, the creator of Bickle in the former and the down-on-his luck comedian Pupkin in the latter. In Joker, DeNiro comfortably assays a callous late-night host who brings Fleck onto his show, after using a clip of Fleck’s disastrous stand-up. So much of this adds up to Joker as a homage to these films and those performances.

Special note should be made of Lawrence Sher’s cinematography. Its evocative harshness contributes to the uncompromising tension. The final moments resonate long after the film is over, a true portrait of senseless, bloody violence. 

Joker certainly feels the least like a comic adaptation of any film, and, as an addition to that cinematic universe, it is a strange one. However, it is apparent that this was a choice by the creators. They have opted for a realm that is a gritty, recognizable world, where the day-to-day angers cause horrors that enflame chaos and mayhem. Ultimately, if one separates the film from its source, Joker is a dark, unique and current reflection of our own times.

Rated R, Joker is now playing in local theaters.

Christian Taylor

In honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944, the Stony Brook School, 1 Chapman Parkway, Stony Brook will host a screening of ​“The Girl Who Wore Freedom” ​on Sunday, Oct. 6 at 1:30 p.m. The documentary, written and directed by Stony Brook School alumna Christian Taylor, showcases the unconventional love story between the people of France and the American GIs who freed them from German occupation.

“[The film] features Danielle Patrix, who was just 1 year old when German tanks rolled into the village of Sainte Marie du Mont, France. Through her eyes, we experience the hardships and trauma of the four-year occupation, as well as the overwhelming joy felt when American GIs freed her city. Seventy years later, the people of Normandy still hold an annual celebration to remember and honor the sacrifices that American soldiers made to free them. This documentary keeps Dany’s story, as well as stories of her fellow French citizens, alive,” explained Taylor.

Admission is free but reservations are requested and can be made at www.normandystories.com/screenings​. For further information, please call 631-751-1800.

Renee Zellweger stars as Judy Garland in a new biopic. Photo courtesy LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions

By Heidi Sutton

“A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.”

― L. Frank Baum, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”

Most people remember the legendary Judy Garland for her role as Dorothy Gale from Kansas in “The Wizard of Oz.” For die-hard fans, the actress, dancer and singer with the beautiful voice is also remembered for “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “Easter Parade” “Summer Stock,” “A Star Is Born,” the Andy Hardy films with Mickey Rooney and much more.

Fifty years after Garland’s death, director Rupert Goold brings us “Judy,” an adaptation of Peter Quilter’s musical “End of the Rainbow,” which explores the star’s final months on earth.

Renée Zellweger stars as Judy Garland in the new biopic.

Set in 1968, the biopic is somber, sad, touching. Garland’s career, by this point, has already spanned more than four decades. At 46, the aging actress (played by Renée Zellweger)lives in and out of hotels with her children, Lorna (Bella Ramsey) and Joey (Lewin Lloyd), while grappling with the demons of her troubled showbiz life.

Down on her luck and out of money, she jumps at the chance to star in a London cabaret show, and leaving the children with their father and third husband, Sid Luft (Rufus Sewell), Garland heads to the Talk of the Town nightclub for a five-week run.

While there, she begins a whirlwind romance with musician Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock), her soon-to-be fifth husband, reconnects with fans, and in a nod to “Oz,” all the while looks forward to getting back home to see her children. “Having children is like having your heart outside your body,” she explains. We meet Judy’s oldest daughter Liza Minnelli (Gemma-Leah Devereux) only briefly at a Hollywood party.

Garland suffers from insomnia, hepatitis, alcoholism, depression, anxiety, an eating disorder and is addicted to pills. Years of abuse, suicide attempts and nervous breakdowns have left her broken.

Occasional flashbacks to the MGM set and scenes with Mickey Rooney (Gus Barry) as a 16-year-old (played by Darci Shaw) attempts to shed light on how Garland ended up this way. MGM founder Louis B. Mayer (Richard Cordery) is portrayed as a monster, threatening Judy and making her take amphetamines and barbiturates to keep up with the frantic pace of making one film after another. “I make movies, Judy, but it’s your job to give those people dreams,” he tells her as they walk along the yellow brick road.

Renée Zellweger and Finn Wittrock in a scene from the film. 

Zellweger is incredible in her portrayal of Garland as a lonely and frail victim of stardom. Her mannerisms and expressions are spot on while the tragic story she is telling is sometimes too hard to watch. The songs that made Garland famous — “Over the Rainbow,” “The Trolley Song,” “Get Happy,”  are performed by Zellweger in the film — but only in snippets.

The film also highlights Garland’s faithful following in the LGBTQ community as she spends time with two gay male fans (Andy Nyman and Daniel Cerqueira) in their apartment in one of the most poignant moments in the film.

In the final scene, Garland peers out into the audience and asks, “You won’t forget me, will you? Promise you won’t.” Six months later, she is dead from an accidental barbiturate overdose. At her funeral, Garland’s “Wizard of Oz” co-star Ray Bolger said, “She just plain wore out.”

Rated PG-13, “Judy” is now playing in local theaters

Photos courtesy LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions