Somewhere over the rainbow Judy Garland still flies. Her career did not begin in Oz or Kansas, but in the ruthless city of Hollywood during its heyday, but Garland will forever be a star. The newest mini series about the life of Judy Garland, “Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows,” takes an introspective look at her faults and fears through the eyes of her second daughter Lorna Luft. Based on the best-selling book of the same name, Lorna narrates the life of her famous mother and tries to portray her as a human being instead of an American legend.
Because of her incredible voice, Judy signed with MGM when she was twelve and the studio began to mold her into a star. They gave her the first taste of addiction when they provided her with uppers to combat her lack of energy due to starving herself to lose unwanted weight.
After keeping her confined to the radio and forcing her to work constantly, she finally began to act in films with her buddy Mickey Rooney. The series makes evident the fact that the studio owned its stars and screwed them whenever it was profitable.
The series tends to focuses on Judy”s (Judy Davis, “Husbands and Wives”) relationship with all the men in her life. They always seem to disappoint her and not love her enough. Her abandonment issues reinforce themselves again and again while the pressures to live up to her Dorothy image lead to her to a dependency on pills.
Judy marries Vincente Minnelli (Hugh Laurie, “Stuart Little”) to move away from her overbearing and over ambitious mother. She loves him deeply but because Minnelli is gay, Judy does not receive the attention she desires from him. She divorces him and soon after meets her next husband Sid Luft (Victor Garber, “Annie”). They go on to produce another classic film, “A Star is Born,” and two children. After several rejections, she goes through very violent mood swings, which takes a serious toll on her marriage and career. They end up in debt and the washed up Garland must go back to work on stage to support her family.
For her comeback, she performs at Carnegie Hall. The performance changed her life as she proved herself to be a star and not a has-been. Judy was only comfortable on stage in the spotlight gathering applause. She cares for her children well but her dependency is too much to handle and forces Lorna to be the mother figure to both her brother Joe and her mother.
At the end of her life, without anyone to take the time to administer her pills to her, she gets up in the middle of the night and overdoses in the bathroom at age 47.
The series has very emotional scenes that make the story extremely powerful. The use of real recordings with Judy Garland”s voice transports part of Judy Garland herself into the story. However, the lip-syncing of the words is done poorly and does take some of the effect away. Since there are no images of the real Judy Garland in the mini-series, all the movie scenes were taped with the actors. The scenes seem to come directly from the films, almost identical to the original. The young Judy (Tammy Blanchard) looks uncannily similar in both “The Wizard of Oz” and “Meet Me in St. Louis.”
The acting is overly dramatic at times but so was Garland”s own personality. Davis understands and clearly thought out how to portray such a complicated person. The switching of actresses from young Judy to adult Judy goes smooth and is hardly noticeable, while the progression from marriage to marriage seems abrupt and hurried. This true story provides a candid look into the entire life of a star, who gave all she had for applause.