Judy Blume has been a foundational staple of young adult fiction for about 50 years, so it’s not terribly surprising that she should be the subject of biographical investigation on Prime Video. Documentarians Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok profile the 85-year-old author in their film Judy Blume Forever, a title that’s as reflective of their flattering opinion of the woman as it is a comment on the considerable impact Blume has had on generations of women.
Whether this unmitigated positivity, enhanced by Blume’s enthusiastic participation as an interviewee, is the result of a life lived well or is cause for skepticism of bias will largely fall to the viewer to decide. Yet Pardo and Wolchock’s film feels particularly timely, not just as a tie-in for the upcoming big-screen adaptation of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, but as a rallying cry for the values that Blume’s life and work have always stood for; empathetic outreach to children, frankness toward feminine sexuality, and continued access to resources for kids to better understand the world around them.
Structurally, Judy Blume Forever is as standard as documentaries designed for streaming platforms come, with Blume taking center stage to tell the story of her life while notable talking heads fill in the details of her impact on themselves as individuals and in the culture at large. The interviewees range from notable actors and television writers who have explored feminine adolescence in their own work—including Lena Dunham, Pen15’s Anna Konkle, and Molly Ringwald—to authors who have been inspired by Blume’s writing, such as Tayari Jones and Alex Gino.
Most interesting, though, is perhaps Lorrie Kim, one of many women who wrote to Blume throughout her adolescence, seeking comfort from an author who truly understood what she was going through when she couldn’t speak to her own parents. Collectively, these interviews tell the story of a woman whose keen insights into the anxieties of pubescent children played an important role in young lives as a sex educator and an empathetic ear.
The documentary’s one stylistic flourish comes in the form of animated sequences that dramatize the passages read by Blume from her own books. These moments run counter to the archival footage and statically shot interviews that don’t stand out visually, and they are adequate in doing so. However, it’s hard to escape the sense that, if one is familiar enough with Judy Blume and her works to be interested in a documentary about her, there isn’t much to this film that is particularly informative or insightful. Rather, this is a reaffirmation of the author’s impact and importance to an audience that already agrees with that assessment, leaving the film as unchallenging as it is pleasant.
That said, the film does deviate from its formula briefly to highlight an issue that has been central to Blume’s life and career: the banning of books. Blume’s frank discussions of feminine sexuality and adolescent anxieties were notable targets of censorship during the Reagan administration, and they are once again among the lists of books that Republican politicians are seeking to remove from libraries in states like Texas and Florida. As a call to action, the film finds a momentary raison d’etre, bringing to the forefront a political issue that’s more pressing than a mere historical curiosity.
This makes Judy Blume Forever a relevant film in spite of its fairly rote presentation. Though it isn’t a deep or nuanced depiction of the beloved author, it is a competent exploration of her continued impact and relevance, a traipse through a career that defined and enlightened generations of kids for half a century and weathered fearful attacks from those who would preserve unquestioned patriarchy. For fans of Judy Blume, the film is an honest representation of why they love her and why kids will continue to love her, and by the metric of those modest goals, Judy Blume Forever is a success.
Judy Blume Forever premieres on Prime Video on April 21, 2023