Judy Blume, Benjamin Safdie and Mark Oppenheimer

Nate Bloom blogs on this week's Jews in the News.

Blume-Mania and Dead Ringers, Redux


On April 21, Amazon Prime begins streaming “Judy Blume Forever”, a documentary about JUDY BLUME, 84. She’s the author of many best-selling novels for “tweens” and young adult audiences—and a few big-selling novels for adults.  The respected “Hollywood Reporter” gave the “doc” a rave review, noting:  “[The film] looks at the legacy of the pioneering young adult fiction writer at a time when many of the issues she confronted — book banning, abortion, antisemitism — are still shockingly topical.”


On April 28, the film “Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret”, opens in theaters. It is based on a Blume novel of the same name. For decades, Blume turned down offers to make “Margaret” into a movie. Blume now says that “the [new] film is better than my novel.”


Margaret is a 12-year-old girl who is trying to cope with puberty. She’s also trying to find out what religious belief is “right”. Her mother isn’t Jewish and her father is Jewish and she’s been raised secular. BENJAMIN SAFDIE, 37, plays Margaret’s father. Anti-Semitism figures in the plot.


The documentary, and “Me, Margaret”, are very much related and their premieres are obviously coordinated. They are the first two “things” in what I’ve come to think of as the “Blume-Wave”.  


Judy Blume was born Judy Sussman, the daughter of an Elizabeth, NJ Jewish dentist and his Jewish wife, a homemaker. Blume says her parents were not very religious. They were, she says, more relaxed about talking about sex than most parents.


Like many Jewish women of the “Silent Generation”, Blume was well-educated (NYU-grad, 1960), but chose to marry (1959) her college sweetheart (JOHN BLUME, a lawyer) and become a homemaker. Her daughter, RANDY, was born in 1961 and her son, LAWRENCE, was born in 1963.


Randy is a therapist and Lawrence is a writer, director, and film producer. Both are interviewed in the new documentary.


Blume’s first work was published in 1969. Her break-through novel was “It’s Me, Margaret’ (1970). To date, her novels have sold more than 90 million copies.


Her readers cite “honesty,” first, as the reason they buy her books.  Blume honestly, realistically, and sensitively covered subjects in her novels that tweens and young adults were/are especially interested in-- like sex, puberty, abortion, and “real-life” romance.


Big book sales led producers to constantly ask Blume for filming rights. For the same reason, documentary makers wanted to talk to Blume.  Blume said “no” to the documentary makers and she allowed only two films to be made from her novels---a TV movie in 1978 and a small-budget indie in 2012 (directed by her son).


The Hollywood Reporter says that Blume now thinks it’s time to “open-up”. She’s agreed to work with MARK OPPENHEIMER, 49, on a book-length biography about her. He formerly was the writer of the “Beliefs” column for the NY Times and his most recent book is about the “Tree of Life” (Pittsburgh) synagogue murders. On his website, he proudly notes that he’s a challah baker.


Also in the works is a Netflix series loosely based on Blume’s 1975 novel “Forever”, and, after three years of pleading, Blume agreed to be the subject of “Judy Blume Forever.” The “pleaders” were documentary co-directors Davina Pardo and LEAH WOLCHOK, 45.


Pardo and Wolchok previously helmed “Very Semi-Serious”, an entertaining 2015 film about New Yorker magazine cartoonists.  Wolchok, alone, made the short film “Kosher Cop” (2004). It’s about the hectic life of a (real) Berkeley, CA rabbi who “kosherizes” restaurants with a blow torch (really).


The original Amazon Prime series “Dead Ringers” premieres on April 21. This 8-episode series is based on the 1988 film of the same name. The 1988 film was directed by, and co-written by DAVID CRONENBERG, now 80. In the 1988 film, Jeremy Irons played identical twin brothers who are both gynecologists. The film, and the new series, are described as a “psychological thriller”.


In the Amazon series, RACHEL WEISZ, 52, plays the dual role that Irons played. As in the 1988 film, the twins share everything from drugs to lovers. The (female) pair are passionate about challenging outdated gynecology practices, even if they push the boundaries of medical ethics.


JEREMY SHAMOS, 53, has a big recurring role. He’s a respected character actor who had supporting roles in “Better Call Saul” and “Nurse Jackie”.


He co-starred as AMY SCHUMER’s husband in “Meteor Shower”, a 2017 Broadway play. This “big-time” role led the JTA to profile Shamos.The JTA said that Shamos, who had a bar mitzvah ceremony, celebrates major Jewish holidays with his wife, actress NINA HELLMAN.  


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