Judy Blume Forever is times as a companion piece of sorts with Lionsgate’s recent adaptation of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret starring Abby Ryder Fortson, Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie. Judy Blume Forever is a loving portrait of the writer and a survey of her influence. It is also a primer for this resurgence, a brief but satisfying guide to the author and her reach.
The film opens with a montage of collected news reels and excerpted interviews, all of which establish and underscore her enduring popularity. A requisite biographical sketch follows. Blume (born Judy Sussman) grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, her childhood marked by fears of World War II. As a child, she was plagued by anxiety and the creeping sense that adults, especially her mother, were keeping secrets from the kids. Listening to Blume recount her younger years, it makes sense that when she started writing later in life, she mostly identified with that age group. Children were straightforward and honest. Rarely did they pretend in the same way as adults.
There’s a satisfaction to hearing Blume, a sharp woman with a winking sense of humor, talk about her path to writing. Her meandering trajectory toward the medium and her challenging journey to harnessing her craft are a refreshing contrast to the contemporary system of publishing, which rewards the young, gifted and confessional. In these reflective interviews, Blume speaks openly about wanting to prove her detractors wrong. She faced countless rejections before publishing The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo (1969), Iggie’s House (1970) and her runaway success Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret (1970). It’s that last one, a book about an 11-year-old girl navigating her religious identity and the tumultuous terrain of puberty, that turned Blume into a household name.
Pardo and Wolchok impressively interweave Blume’s early career censorship battles with the recently reignited movement to ban books. Several of Blume’s own novels like Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, Blubber and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t have been banned on and off for her entire career. The author, who now owns a bookstore in Key West, has remained a fierce advocate on this issue and more.