Judy Blume Forever Review | Super-Blume

by Andrew Parker

Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok’s lightly nostalgic and uniquely uplifting documentary Judy Blume Forever gives one of the greatest young adult authors of all time their proper flowers. A deep, comprehensive portrait of the life, work, and advocacy of Judy Blume, Pardo and Wolchok’s film makes the astute case that their subject is one of the most influential and indispensable writers of the twentieth century, with more than enough historical and testimonial evidence to back up that claim. Judy Blume Forever richly captures the ways in which a writer was able to speak directly and frankly to an underrepresented audience of young women and men, shattering taboos and opening up valuable discussions about growing up. If you’re already familiar with the works of Judy Blume, Pardo and Wolchok (Very Semi-Serious) will only reinforce their significance. If not, you’ll be drawn into the orbit of a warm, fascinating, courageous, and highly articulate woman worth following.

Though her career started off slow and steady, Elizabeth, New Jersey native Judy Blume broke through to young readers with the game changing novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Still a seminal entry into the YA canon (and getting its own big screen adaptation, due to hit theatres next weekend), Blume’s first smash success and third book overall dealt openly with two topics most writers wouldn’t want to discuss with adolescents: the onset of womanhood (menstruation and all) and questioning the nature of religious belief. It quickly became one of the most challenged and banned books in the United States for depressingly obvious reasons, but the honest approach appealed Blume to a legion of young readers, with equally best selling works like the Fudge series of books, Blubber, and Forever, often tackling tough subject matter like death, teen sexuality, and bullying.

Judy Blume Forever features a large number of admirers willing to speak to Pardo and Wolchok about the personal and cultural impact she had, but the film works best when getting to the root of why Blume was so revered and beloved. A lot of that reverence comes down to the simple act of listening to the people who read her books. Pardo and Wolchok embed themselves with Blume – who now operates her own bookstore in Key West, while continuing to be a writer and advocate – and get a lot of context and background information from their subject about most of the author’s work in great detail. But while those moments are engaging in a more standard way, Pardo, Wolchok, and Blume delve deeper in sections where the writer combs through her extensive archive of fan mail, now housed at the Yale University rare book and manuscript library. 

These intimate, shared moments between readers and the writer that changed their lives and perspectives provide the backbone and beating heart of Judy Blume Forever. Pardo and Wolchok aren’t merely taking a trip down memory lane with Blume, but rather illustrating how a combination of gentle, heartfelt honesty and using a platform to continually connect with different generations of young readers over decades can create a low key icon. Blume says in the film that despite writing several novels for adults over the years, she has always been more comfortable and in her element writing about young people, and as such, feedback from those touched by her work is something she has always cherished and taken to heart. 

It’s that attention to detail that makes her books so endearing and controversial to this day, and her overall contribution to literature is as incalculable as it is underrated. Whenever Blume fought back against censorship of her work, it wasn’t merely an author standing up for their own accomplishments, but rather showing allyship with an entire percentage of the population who wanted to have serious conversations that many parents, administrators, and teachers often shied away from. Blume was an adult that young readers could entrust with their deepest fears, desires, embarrassments, and successes without feeling judged, and she never once takes that kind of responsibility for granted.

There’s not too much in Judy Blume Forever about the private author’s personal life, outside of an outlining of her early years and previous marriages, but in this case that’s not a detriment to the overall film and its message. An exceptional speaker, consummate storyteller, and warm presence, Blume addresses the unseen viewer in her extensive sit down interviews with Pardo and Wolchok as an equal. There’s a tremendous amount of humility, spirit, and confidence that radiates from Blume throughout the documentary, and it becomes keenly apparent how she has been able to sell over 90 million books worldwide. The world might change, and the subject matter of her stories is constantly evolving, but everything that makes Blume special as a writer has remained the same. Judy Blume Forever might not want to make viewers want to relive their awkward tween and teen years, but it will lovingly remind many of a voice that made them feel seen and heard.

Judy Blume Forever is available on Prime Video starting Friday, April 21, 2023.

This film was originally screened as part of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

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