Monday, March 23, 2009

I Could Go On BioPic'ing

Clang! Clang! Clang! Variety is reporting that Anne Hathaway is going to become Frances Ethel Gumm (i.e. Judy Garland) in a biopic called Get Happy

When will the madness end? If the pop culture on pop culture on pop culture joke weren't overplayed already, I'd be peering out from under a bedsheet, mascara running face contorted screaming...

LEAVE JUDY ALONE!!!

Judy Garland is one of the film experience's sacred ten* and just as She Could Go On Singing, I Can Go On Bitching that she does not get the credit she deserves. Another biopic detailing her sad life probably won't do much for her legacy which should be one of enormous contribution to cinematic and musical culture rather than yet another recounting of her personal tragedies. See, they didn't call her "The World's Greatest Entertainer" for nothing. Can we please talk about that.

Judy G was the subject of a popular television biopic as recently as 2001. Tammy Blanchard played her as a young starlet. Judy Davis took over as she became a great star and netted AFI, Globe, BFCA, SAG and Emmy statues, a sizeable haul by any account, for her impersonation.

Now, it's no secret that my love for Anne Hathaway has been growing exponentially (she made me love her. I didn't wanna do it. I didn't wanna do it) these past couple of years but is she right for this? She keeps getting stronger as an actress and she can sing beautifully but, here's the catch: Would they really let anyone not lipsynch to Judy? (This isn't a Tommy Femia show! It's a movie) And if Hathaway is going to be in a musical I want to hear that showtune friendly voice of hers, damnit.


Hathaway turns 27 this year and even though I'm no great fan of biopics I must admit that it's probably the perfect age to play Garland. It's young enough to just barely get away with playing her as a teen star and it's old enough to play her at the peak of her movie powers (the Meet Me in St. Louis years of the mid 40s) followed by her quick flameout and first career ressurrection. I think modern audiences tend to think that Judy Garland's comeback in A Star is Born (1954) was the comeback of a middle aged star, regaining her luster for another iconic role (in the same category as Bette Davis in All About Eve for example). But it's not so. Garland was in fact only 32 when A Star is Born surfaced. Like the last inimitable iconic vocalist to get a biopic (Edith Piaf, who some consider the French Judy) she aged rapidly. That's what numerous addictions will do to you. (Let us pray they don't feel the need to scramble Judy's narrative)

Would Hathaway win a Marion Cotillard style Oscar doing this or is this just a bad idea all around? I suspect it's a moot question. Remember when various actresses were going to play Marlene Dietrich (Uma Thurman, Gwyneth Paltrow, etc...)? That bio also didn't have a script or a director. It was merely a dream vehicle intended to drive someone towards gold statues. It never found keys for the ignition.

Updated to add ~ Paul Outlaw is right: Hathaway actually looks more like Judy's offspring Liza Minnelli



and she's never had a biopic. It figures. I have an unhealthy relationship to biopics and she's one of the only stars I'd love to see get one. Therefore it shan't happen. My love is a curse!

*for new readers, the other nine favorite actresses in alpha order: Deneuve, Davis, Fonda, Monroe, Moore, Pfeiffer, Streep, Taylor and Wood. But here's the top 20 and here's the top 100 ...because why stop at 10? There are so many actresses worth loving?

38 comments:

Luis said...

You should feel blessed they didn't offer the role to Swank...

rosengje said...

Totally agree with your assessment. I also feel that if Hathaway is going to enter the musical arena, she should have started with a lighter, frothier project. Is this really how she wants to test her mettle?

Slim said...

I don't know what it is, but something really bothers me about biopics, specially when they are about someone who's weel-known in the showbiz, like Garland.
At least we know that Hathaway is gonna try to do a decent job, unlike some actresses (cough cough, Lynda Carter as Rita Hayworth).
Although I truly believe we should let our 40's and 50's divas alone and be happy just by watching their own movies, not an impersonation

karla said...

Of course you love her, she is awesome... I have learned to appreciate her with time against my will, just like you.

God she was flawless in Rachel getting married.

I think that she is capable of greatness, if she has a good script and someone with vision directing this drama/musical she will blow people away.

I'm with you; I've been waiting for her to do a musical so I can hear that voice... Now with a lot of training I think she can sound very garland-y. I mean it worked in walk the line.. If Elle Woods* was able yo pulled ir off, why can't Anne?

*I thought Reese Whitherspoon was brilliant, gain my respect with walk the line, but before that for me she was just that silly blonde chick with a homo chiguagua.
That's why I have this much trust in Annie, besides the fact that she actually is very good.

The Know Nothing Know It All said...

When a biopic is being made, the question I always ask is "Is it necessary?" Meaning, what are we to learn/gain from seeing this person's life story? What other reason is there to tell this story, besides the fact that it's about someone famous. That's why I think biopics like "Milk" and "Erin Brockovich" are examples of the genre's best. They have relevant and universal themes that feel very "now" and pertinent. What is there to be learned from "La Vie en Rose" that couldn't be learned from "Ray" or "The Rose" or "Walk the Line?" Can't it be said that Queen Elizabeth I is already such an entrenched figure that a biopic seems like overkill?

And finally, Judy Garland. What is to be said here that hasn't been said before? Struggles with addiction? Meaty scenes of crying/histrionics? Does my point make any sense? When it seems like there's no reason left to make the film, one can assume money or awards fishing or some combination of the two. I really don't want to have to associate Anne Hathaway with an Oscar win for such a performance. Continue to seek out the interesting original characters Anne...you'll be a better actress for it.

Katey said...

Regardless of whether or not the movie is truly necessary (probably not), the casting is spot-on, and I can't imagine a better actress to take the role right now-- y'know, except for some unknown who could use the shot at stardom. But those ladies don't sell tickets to the pictures!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like an awful idea and a huge disaster.

adam k. said...

Well one could do far worse than Hathaway for this, but I agree, what's the point of this project? There was another Judy biopic made JUST a few years ago that was enormously successful, with a lead performance that felt rather definitive (and a great supporting one, too). It will be near-impossible to top that.

And while they look pretty similar - other than how Anne is tall and Judy was very short - Judy and Anne's voices are VERY different. And when you're dealing with a woman who had arguably THE most distinctive and beloved voice in movie musicals EVER (barring perhaps Julie Andrews), using a voice that doesn't match in any way seems kind of pointless.

Hathaway's speaking voice is high, chirpy, and a bit nasal, and her singing voice a lovely soprano. But Garland's voice is low and luscious in a way you can't fake if you have a high voice. I actually doubt Anne could sing many of Judy's famous songs in the same key. And if she DOES lip-synch, it won't match her speaking voice at all (it sort of annoyed me when Cruz's voice didn't match in Volver, even as I was loving that musical moment).

Hathaway's first big musical should be something that suits her voice and persona, like... well... Wicked. Or if she must do a biopic, have it be of a young Julie Andrews.

But this was obviously a standard case of casting tunnel vision: "OMG, she can play an addict! AND she can sing! She should play Judy!" Meh.

Sally Belle said...

So, yeah, the casting is good...but, I ask the question with Nathaniel...would she lipsynch Judy? Because, I don't think I want to hear anyone singing Judy, but Judy.
There is a reason that she is a legend. She was and is one of a kind.

Amy said...

Speaking of musicals, where is your musical of the month review of Swing Time? Ginger and Fred are my favorite onscreen couple of all time! In fact, I'm going to make tap dancing a requirement for potential future dates.

Also, what did you think of the most recent episode of Dollhouse? Are you going to keep doing updates on it?

par3182 said...

isn't this some kind of stage and screen deal she's signed with the devil (aka harvey w)? that would indicate her doing her own singing

pretty young thing+
biopic+aging+singing+addiction
+showbiz multiplied by harvey= engrave that oscar now

Sean said...

i just watched the Judy interview with Barbara Walters on Hulu...and I'm cautiously optimistic that Anne (with the right direction/script/music) could turn this into a tour de force unlike we have ever seen on screen. I hope they capture the good times as much as the down times, but pay tribute to her unbelievable presence and abilities. Maybe something like Milk with the actual footage mixed in with the new stuff.

Anonymous said...

I think this is excellent casting.

Just hope Weinstein doesnt mess this up.


I'd rather see this than that awful remake or whatever-the-hell-it-is people want to call it 'My fair lady.'

I have more faith in Anne portraying Garland than Keira Knightley crucifying Audrey Hepburns take on Eliza Dolittle.

adam k. said...

Agreed that it would take some stellar direction and a great script to really do her justice.

And we have no evidence that mimicry is among Anne's (admittedly many) actorly skills, but we shall see...

Kamikaze Camel said...

Poor Judy Davis.

Seisgrados said...

Nathaniel, that Dietrich biopic Uma Thurman was attached to HAD a director, and a good one for that matter. French auteur Louis Malle was to be directing this movie based on Maria Riva's memoir. Tragically he died before we could see the wonderful Uma morph into Marlene. Sad.

jimmy said...

why no marilyn bio pic?

SSSSSSSSSSSStress said...

Judy Davis gave a magnific performance, I doubt Anne can overshadow her. By the way, I don't like that title: "Get Happy". What the Fuck?

Styx said...

I can't wait to see Anne Hathaway tackle Judy Garland. But I love biopics, which seems verboten around here, but whatever. I think it'd be pretty great if she took this all the way to an Oscar. She should have won for "Rachel Getting Married" anyways.

Sam said...

And finally, Judy Garland. What is to be said here that hasn't been said before? Struggles with addiction? Meaty scenes of crying/histrionics? Does my point make any sense? When it seems like there's no reason left to make the film, one can assume money or awards fishing or some combination of the two. I really don't want to have to associate Anne Hathaway with an Oscar win for such a performance. Continue to seek out the interesting original characters Anne...you'll be a better actress for it.

Gerald Clarke's book is supposedly more of an in-depth treatment of Judy Garland's life than what's ever been written before. This is the same guy that wrote the source material for "Capote" (2005). If this film turns out like that one, then I think this venture will be well-worth it.

Janice said...

Oh you're asking this at the wrong time, Nat, because I finally saw Rachel Getting Married last night - and had to watch it a second time this morning. (I've gone from cold on Anne - or at least neutral - to a fan overnight, literally. Anne+Rosemarie DeWitt+Bill Irwin = bliss.And where were Rosemarie and Bill's Oscar noms, btw?) So right now I'm of the mind that Anne can do anything she put her formative mind and considerable skills to.

What don't we know about Garland already? Well, just in Nat's post there's this bit that I didn't know - or had forgotten:

//I think modern audiences tend to think that Judy Garland's comeback in A Star is Born (1954) was the comeback of a middle aged star, regaining her luster for another iconic role... But it's not so. Garland was in fact only 32 when A Star is Born surfaced.//

Maybe Garland fans/freak/worshippers etc know all the details but I think most people (including myself) only know the legend, etc. If the script is of high quality and the director a first-rate one, then it could be something special. At least, I feel as though Anne would find the humanity and depth in Judy and not just play it as mimicry. (Then again, I thought Baz would be able to pull off "old fashioned epic" so I've been wrong before.) But having seen RCM my interest in anything Anne is in (barring Bride Wars) has shot up considerably.)

It's not that "biopic is bad", it's that the industry is astonishingly lazy. After all, biography takes up a huge section of any bookstore but I don't see anyone complaining about that. it has to do with skill and Nat you're right, most are done with the same lazy template, or paint-by-numbers style. Just as most westerns or comic movies or horror films are wretched but it's those exceptions that make you hope that the next one will be special, too.

Pablete said...

The Weinstein Brothers are producing their movies with MGM; is the Lion ever going to roar again? The biopic of Judy Garland starring Anne Hathaway could very well be intended as a move in that particular direction, especially industry-wise.

pomme said...

one question:judy garland was tiny and is hathaway very tall,isn't she?

RobUK said...

I have no issue with this really.

It's telling that you presume that the biopic will detail her sad life, rather than her ability to entertain. Perhaps it will celebrate the latter? Or maybe the better film is in the former. I'm up for either. A celebration of entertainment OR a good dramatic film.

I thought Judy Davis was perfectly super, but haven't really gotten over her beating Emma Thompson's mighty work in Wit all that award season, so I feel oddly resentful of her too!

But no, I don't feel Hathaway will win a Cotillard style Oscar. I say this because I believe Cotillard in Piaf to be the best performance by an actress this decade, so it would be asking a little too much of the wonderful Hathaway to go in demanding that.

But I'm happy to wait this one out to see all the same.

On the plus side, think what it will do for people who'll go and check out more Garland as a direct RESULT of this project? Surely that's got to be a good thing?

Paul Outlaw said...

The only way this can be good for anyone is if the film depicts an incident -- say, the making of A Star Is Born -- or a period -- say, the Minnelli years -- from Clarke's book. If they go the whole rise and fall and rise again and fall again biopic route, it is destined to fail. Two hours just isn't sufficient.

Ian said...

I'm more concerned about Anne Hathaway having to be tied down to a lengthy stage version of this. Maybe she'll star in the film, and someone else tackle the stage musical? That's weird that they're doing both. What comes first? It wouldn't do too much good to have the film come out before the musical. She'd have to sing there, so she wouldn't lip sync for the film? This isn't just any ole' voice to try and mimic here. So many questions with this. But do I think that she can handle it? Definitely. And the Academy will eat this up with relish.

Paul Outlaw said...

And anyway, Hathaway is much better suited for this role.

Rick said...

You are righton .. I do like bios, but Judy has been overdone...to me another movie would also sensationalize the negatives of her life ( but that does win OSCARS)... THE TV VERSION WAS WELL DONE AND ENOUGH!

Karla said...

Holy S! Paul Outlaw, you are right. God, Hathaway looks just like her...

But by the time a biopic its done about Liza, Anne will be too old.

Chelle said...

I think that this film could be glorious. What a get for Anne Hathaway! I can't wait to hear about a writer and director attached. Knock it out of the park, Annie!

Magicub said...

Hathaway looks more like LIza, and she deserves a biopic, and "My life and my shadows" is still very fresh.

PD: Stevie Nicks deserves a biopic

Karen said...

Judy Garland had a show? Didn't know that. If anyone is fit to do a biopic on Judy or Liza it's Anne Hathaway.

Chris Na Taraja said...

Magicub, i was just about to say the same thing.

Though I think annie should play Liza to some fabulous Drag Queen playing Judy!

Glenn said...

Pablete, the Weinstein Co are no long in bed with MGM (who were releasing TWC titles) as TWC are now distributing their own titles.

eduardo said...

A morphed picture of Anne and Judy.

http://www.morphthing.com/celebrity/1526715-Judy-Garland-and-Anne-Hathaway

Not bad. (And a fun site to play with for 3.14 minutes.)

Karla said...

Not bad at all Eduardo!^^ and you know makeup does wonders.

I'm just glad I'm not the only one that knows she will totally pull it off.

mrripley said...

this film has nit been made yet the knives are out calm down girls!!! have some faith in anne take a look at rachel getting married she shows some real acting stuff there.

RexX said...

We're not "girls", so stop patronizing. There's plenty of reasons to be skeptical over this casting, and with Judy Davis's huge shadow (no pun intended) looming over this project heavily, there's good reason for the pause.