‘Judy Blume Forever’ Review: Warm-hearted documentary about American icon

Sundance: The groundbreaking author gets a suitably warm and inspirational doc that proves just how special she really is.

As Davina Pardos and Leah Wolchok’s warmhearted documentary Judy Blume Forever nears its final minutes, even the most stone-faced viewer is likely to shed a few tears. Throughout the Judy Blume-centric feature, the beloved American author will be joined by a cast of talking heads – a stylish selection ranging from Blume’s own children and childhood friends to fellow authors such as Mary HK Choi and Jacqueline Woodson, and celebrity followers such as Lena Dunham and Molly Ringwald — but none are as significant as Lorrie Kim and Karen Chilstrom, two longtime fans who have corresponded with Blume for decades.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the best-selling author gets tons of fan mail (to this day!), but that Blume likes to save lots of it, responds to it often, and genuinely appreciates it is just one of the joys to be found in the doc.

But back to Kim and Chilstrom, now grown women who have formed deep friendships with Blume over decades of writing. And while that alone would be sweet enough, and further proof of Blume’s genuinely good nature, the blossoming of these relationships makes for a deeply satisfying conclusion to a story about an icon worthy of all accolades. For both women, Blume served as a kind of diary, one even better than the most faithful diary, during their tumultuous growing up.

And Blume didn’t just write back, she proactively and positively improved Kim and Chilstrom’s lives. For Chilstrom, she helped locate then-social services, which guided her through a complicated healing process after her brother’s death. For Kim — and here the tears begin — Blume and her now-husband literally showed up at the young woman’s college graduation when the rest of her family couldn’t attend.

That’s the magic of Judy Blume: She keeps popping up for kids (“of all ages,” she says at one point) who need her, who savor her honesty and candor, who recognize how wonderful and rare she is as an adult to meet them at their level.

Organized mostly chronologically, Blume herself takes us through some of her greatest books and what was going on in her life as she wrote them (cute and peppy animations provide a backdrop as Blume reads aloud from her works). First, there is her childhood, which sheds light on how some of Blume’s key obsessions were formed. As a child of World War II (she vividly remembers turning seven at the end of World War II), Blume still remembers feeling that adults weren’t entirely honest with her about big things. The war is “far away” and cannot harm her. She did not have to worry about her father’s health. Being happy was easy. Even as a child, Blume knew it was nonsense.

But who could tell other children? Ultimately, although Judy Blume Forever also takes us through the many years before she reached this point: exchanging secrets with girlfriends in high school, Judy Blume was able to go to college to find a husband, always hoping to attain an ideal meeting that did doesn’t really appeal to them. Blume was a late bloomer, at least as far as her work was concerned, and she’s remarkably candid about the years she’s spent Not Writing (and wanting) and then first attempts (that were Not valued). But Blume’s belief that what she was doing mattered and would help children feel less alone drove her, and—you know what? – turned out to be absolutely correct.

More than 50 years into her career, Blume is still leaving her mark on the world (and its youngest citizens) and proving impressively that being a good person really is the best medicine. These days she’s hanging out in Key West (where, of course, she now owns a bookstore), staying healthy and preparing for the theatrical adaptation of her beloved, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” in April (who appears poised to launch another much-deserved Blume hit). In many ways it is as vital as ever.

At just under 100 minutes, Judy Blume Forever can’t – understandably – cover every inch of Blume’s remarkable life (her relationship with her beloved editor Richard W. Jackson, for example, could inspire a whole other film, and her work could support banned books of all stripes), but it provides an edifying and rich overview of everything, Judy. Pardo and Wolchok use some of the doctor’s final moments to quiz current kids about Blume’s books.

After all, we already know the joy and charm of Blume, best expressed by a starry, talking head at the beginning of the film (and a man at that!): “Wow, Judy has his say me!“It was then, it is now, and, God willing, it will continue to be so, forever.

Grade: B+

Judy Blume Forever premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Amazon will release the film on Prime Video on Friday, April 21.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2023/01/judy-blume-forever-review-documentary-1234797994/ ‘Judy Blume Forever’ Review: Warm-hearted documentary about American icon

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