With Renee Zelwegger biopic Judy now also in cinemas, the arrival of this documentary certainly feels timely. Offering a more private, heartfelt, and honest depiction of the legendary singer, Sid & Judy is a personal and revealing snapshot of Judy Garland, told mostly from the perspective of her husband Sid Luft’s memoirs.
Despite the fact it uses the words of Sid frequently, this doesn’t feel like Judy’s story told by somebody else, and there are frequent excerpts of her personal recordings, as well as plenty of archive footage, and of course her fantastic voice and talent is at the forefront of the entire thing. In addition to the recordings, there are voice-overs reading Luft’s memoirs with Sid voiced by Jon Hamm and Judy by Jennifer Jason Leigh. This device helps breathe life into the narrative, providing character and depth, as opposed to an endless reel of talking heads or a narration that feels detached. As such, there is real zip to this documentary; it is vibrant and honest, as is befitting of the woman who is the subject matter.
Whilst it traces back her life to the very beginning, it mostly focuses on her comeback and post-MGM career. The tales of her early life are harrowing however, particularly when it talks about how the studio would give her pills to keep her energy up, working her to the point of exhaustion. They effectively owned her, monitoring her weight and controlling all aspects of her career. Once free of MGM, Judy was able to focus more on what she loved; singing.
As you would expect given the much publicised drug use of Garland, the film certainly doesn’t shy away from any of that, but for the most part it focuses on the life of Garland and not her death, which is to be commended. She was after all, a complete one-off, full of life and with a personality big enough to match her trademark voice. The live performances, whether in audio clip or video form, are electrifying, and it is impossible not to get chills whenever you hear those familiar notes of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ or ‘The Man That Got Away’.
Sid & Judy is a celebration of the star who became a legend and in its closing moments, it provides a heartfelt nod to the legacy that she has left behind. Be sure to stay until the very end of the credits as well for a lovely moment from Judy herself that really helps to wrap up the experience of watching this documentary. A touching, beautiful, and passionate documentary that perfectly captures the personality of Garland; like the lady herself, simply magnificent.
Director: Stephen Kijal
Writers: Claire Didier, Stephen Kijak
Stars: Judy Garland, Sidney Luft, Jon Hamm, Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand