Film Review: Sid & Judy

On the fiftieth anniversary of Judy Garland’s death, director Stephen Kijak has created a timely and engrossing documentary with Sid & Judy.

In 1950, film producer Sid Luft met Hollywood star Judy Garland. Garland had just parted ways with MGM, the company which had made her a star, and controlled her every move…

Sid & Judy begins at a later point in Garland’s career before going back. It is a good device, welcoming the audience in at a troubled point before pulling back. The film gives viewers a history of Garland’s career up to the point she meets Sid Luft. As his memoirs continue, Luft waxes lyrical on the current as well as Garland’s past. 

The documentary combines film clips, audio recordings, interview footage, archive photographs and Luft’s memoirs to paint a picture of Garland’s life and her career in Hollywood and beyond. Director Kijak constantly mixes these elements to make Sid & Judy feel like a comprehensive portrait of the star, as well as her marriage to Luft. 

The star of Sid & Judy undoubtedly is Luft’s memoirs. These are descriptive and beautifully written, painting a evocative picture of Garland and the couple’s relationship. Narration by Jon Hamm is perfectly pitched. Jennifer Jason Leigh is also well cast voicing Garland. 

The film indicates how aspects of Garland’s childhood and family life could have influenced her later decisions and troubles. Of course, this is subjective. After all, it is Luft’s memoirs for the most part which tell the story. Nevertheless the yarn that is spun is compelling viewing. 

One of the most interesting aspects of the film is how Luft himself dealt with Garland’s addiction. The film details the struggles that Luft faced as he attempted to get her clean, and also the toll her addiction took place on their marriage. The personal insight here is most fascinating. 

Sid & Judy effectively conveys Garland’s magnetism, and does not shy away from depicting the star’s personal struggles. A very entertaining documentary. 

Sid & Judy is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019.

Film Review: Meet Me in St. Louis

Vincente Minnelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis is perfect viewing for the holiday season. The film is warm, bright and amusing, with memorable songs.

In the year preceding the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, Esther Smith falls for her new next door neighbour. Her older sister Rose waits patiently for a long-distance proposal, while youngest Tootie gets in a whole heap of trouble. As the Smith family look forward to the World Fair, Mr Smith has some news that may change the course of events…

Meet Me in St. Louis is regarded as a classic for good reason. The film is well constructed, with a narrative that unfolds at a good pace. Although Esther is the central character, there is enough focus on other family members to ensure the minor strands are sufficiently developed.

Minnelli’s film features a wonderful balance of drama, romance and comedy. The film appears quite old fashioned in the sense of having the stock humorous characters complimenting the main players. Far from being a bad thing, this gives Meet Me in St. Louis a nostalgic quality. The script is also great, with the interactions between family members appearing both natural and amusing.

Meet Me in St Louis is of course a musical. Although the songs are great, action in the film thankfully does not feel like a bridge between one song and the next. The film has more depth than this, providing a fairly simple tale, but one with feeling. Judy Garland’s seminal ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ is acutely emotional, because of its cinematic context, as well as the fact that it is a beautiful rendition.

Performances in Minnelli’s film are good overall. Judy Garland is convincing as the teenage Esther, despite being in her early twenties. Lucille Bremer and Margaret O’Brien provide good support as sisters Rose and Tootie, while Majorie Main offers comic relief as the maid Katie.

Meet Me in St. Louis‘ re-release is in perfect time for pre-Christmas viewing. First time audience members are in for a treat.

Meet Me in St. Louis is being screened at the British Film Institute from 16th December 2011, as well as selected venues throughout the UK.