Early on in Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok’s Judy Blume Forever, the best-selling author recalls growing up during the waning days of World War II and hearing about the atrocities the Nazi regime inflicted on the Jewish population of Europe. Being Jewish herself, she felt threatened by the news, but her parents always hushed it away and never elaborated or explained anything. The unwillingness by her parents and the adult world at large made her curious, creating a drive to give meaning to the secrets they harbored…. a drive that would eventually make Blume one of the most beloved authors in modern history for the way she laced her stories with pubescent truths. This simple anecdote is one of the most succinct explanations of what drives someone to become a writer that I’ve ever heard. It’s one of the many pleasures found within the documentary Judy Blume Forever.
That Blume herself is still alive and kicking (and looks fabulous) at the age of 83 only gives Pardo and Wolchok’s deep dive analysis of the author that much more spring in its step. Following the fairly rudimentary and accepted streaming service documentary frame (lightweight at times, full of talking head interviews etc), Judy Blume Forever doesn’t really need anything more because Blume’s life and works are the impetus here for a thought provoking spotlight.
From highlighting her beloved classics to the inevitable showdown of truth versus political machinations in the 80’s as her books were being challenged by the right wing pundits of the day (sounds familiar), Judy Blume Forever would be enough to satisfy on its own. But then the film brings in another dimension to Blume’s life as she wades through 50 years of correspondence with young fans and the intrinsic bond she formed with some of them outside of her fictional works. It’s hard not to get emotional seeing how Blume showed up for one of her pen pals’ college graduation, or how she might have (literally) saved the life of another. That Blume is an exceptional human being is just another wonderful example of the necessity of strong, talented people to put down truths on paper.
As a bookstore manager in my other life, Judy Blume Forever would have settled nicely, regardless. But as a celebration of someone who has impacted so many lives, the film becomes a living document of proof that we need people to nurture and imagine with us, no matter how old we are. And seeing the state of our country today and the war still being waged around the fear mongering of literature and its impact, it’s clear we need people like Blume now more than ever.
Judy Blume Forever begins streaming on Amazon Prime on Friday April 21st.