Review: Judy Blume Forever Honors a Prolific Writer and Her Profound Impact on Generations of Readers
It’s best to start with a confession: I’m no Blume-ite. Never was, either. During those turbulent pre-teen years when every kid is looking for answers and intel about life’s most salacious secrets, my peers might’ve been turning to the revealing and relatable works of prolific author Judy Blume. I, on the other hand…well, I don’t actually know what I was doing, because after the deep dive into her work and life that is Judy Blume Forever, I wish I’d had her witty and wise prose to see me through those rocky, confusing times.
Best known for works including Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (soon to be released as a film of its own, a long-overdue adaptation of the 1970 young adult novel), Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and many, many more, Judy Blume has long been a treasure among readers seeking to find themselves (or, equally, lose themselves) in worlds few if any other authors were bold enough to put to the page. But as a public personality or pseudo-celebrity, she’s shunned the spotlight, preferring instead to stick to her keyboard, spending decades creating the characters, storylines and narratives in her many books, from children’s stories to steamy adult romances.
Directed by Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok, Judy Blume Forever gives the author (and her many, many fans and champions) the chance to tell her story herself; at 85, Blume has seen some things, and in direct-to-camera interviews for the film, she’s here to tell us all about them. Hers is a life lived across eras, from her early adulthood as a new wife and mother at a time when women in her position had few professional options to national movements for civil rights, women’s rights and more, to the dawn of technology that threatened to do away with books (and her livelihood) all together. Blume’s weathered it all, and gracefully at that, prioritizing her children, her work and her readers through it all.
While there’s nothing particularly exceptional about the filmmaking of this perfectly watchable documentary, that’s not a criticism. Far from it, as the heart and soul of it is in Blume herself, and in that the film succeeds in spades. From her time as a young stay-at-home mother bursting at the seams to do more with her life to her years-long correspondences with her most devoted fans, what jumps off the screen at every moment of this endearing film is Blume’s warmth, kindness and genuine appreciation for the work she does and how it impacts lives seen or unseen. Between her interviews, the filmmakers feature those who she’s affected, from literary titans who count her among their earliest influences to the everyday fans who wrote to her as teens discovering themselves on the pages of her books. It’s all a welcome reminder of the connective power of words, something a sometimes writer like me finds quite encouraging indeed.
There’s also plenty to be reminded of throughout Blume’s life of her outspoken stance against censorship and sexism, and her unflinching commitment to telling the truth. A trove of archival footage included in the film chronicles her media appearances, many of them instances where she’s pushing back against a prude interviewer’s resistance to her books’ frank approaches to subjects like puberty, sexuality and more. Though she might look like a lamb of a lady quietly observing the world around her, as the film (and she) makes clear, there’s a lion inside her ready to roar about what matters at every chance she gets.
As a format, documentary films are uniquely suited to chronicling the lives and legacies of our most prominent people, from presidents to popes. If it were up to me, everyone of note would have a feature film made to document their work and accomplishments alongside their personal struggles and triumphs, and films like Judy Blume Forever are a perfect example as to why. Blume-ite or not, it’s easy to agree that Judy Blume is a national treasure who deserves the appreciation and recognition a film as enjoyable as this one provides.
Judy Blume Forever is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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