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Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows Reviews

Reviewed By: Brian J. Dillard

Actresses who play other actresses convincingly are few and far between, but the producers of this hit biopic found not one, but two who could pull it off. The main reasons to watch Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows, then, are the wide-eyed, pitch-perfect innocence of Tammy Blanchard and the gradually more ravaged, but still powerful, countenance of Judy Davis. Some of the credit goes to Pamela Roth's stunning makeup design, but even so, both actresses slip into Garland's skin with uncanny precision and emotional power. As for the film itself, it's a fairly standard-issue TV biopic that compresses epic struggles into iconic moments and ties it all together with neat voice-over narration. Marsha Mason stepped out of retirement to play Garland's troglodyte of a stage mom, but she doesn't get enough screen time to register fully. Neither do the many other fine performers called upon to embody everyone from director and husband Vincente Minnelli to frequent co-star Mickey Rooney. The memoir on which the film is based actually splits its time between Garland's story and that of its author: her daughter, actress and singer Lorna Luft. With the exception of the voiceover, Luft's own history is mostly excised -- but so is that of Liza Minnelli, Garland's other, more famous daughter. What remains is an episodic, though sympathetic and humanizing, treatment of a larger-than-life career and the woman behind it. Even viewers who remember Garland chiefly as a childhood icon will want to catch Davis and Blanchard's performances, but they may end up wanting to learn more than Life With Judy Garland tells them.