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Magic Beyond Words: The JK Rowling Story (2011) Review

12 09 2011

Copyright 2011 Lifetime Movies

★ ★ ★ (Non Harry Potter fan)/★ ★ ★ ★ (Harry Potter fan)

I just got cable recently for the first time in 8 years, so I’m still in the process of oogling over the station selection like I was seeing a flying car.  Maddie and I came across this movie on the Lifetime Movie Network; yes, that is correct, it is a Lifetime movie and I watched it.  Why, you ask?  Well, it is a biopic of one of my favorite authors of all-time, JK Rowling.  If I have to fill you in on her claim to fame, then you probably have been oblivious to pop culture for longer than I went without cable.

Story-wise, as you can imagine, it follows the natural flow of a biopic.  The first scene takes place in a limo after she has become famous.  She is talking with her husband about her nerves and how surreal it all is before the premiere of the first Harry Potter movie.  From there, we move into her child and go through the events of her life from about age 9 through the publication of the first book.  Throughout, there are flourishes of details in which she got ideas that were subsequently incorporated into the book series.  For instance, the character of Ron seems to be based partially on a good friend from her high school days.  Following college, there is a decent amount of focus on her time as a teacher in Portugal, her first marriage, which ultimately ended in disaster, and her time as a struggling single mother in Edinburgh.  Following the progression of her famous cafe writings, the film closes with a bookend where it began – at the premiere of the first film.

The story flows like a stereotypical biopic and it is really fun to see the fairy tale-like rise to fame and fortune on the screen.  Technically, it’s also a really polished movie for a made-for-tv film.  I’m not certain what camera was used for this production, but judging by look, I would say the RED One.  It seemed to have that RED-like warmth to the image.  It’s a wonder what cameras like the RED One and Alexa are doing for these lower-budget television movies.  It allows them to have all the polish and finesse, visually, of a major motion picture, and I think that is a wonderful thing for producers and audiences alike.

All three actresses who played Jo Rowling over the course of the film did a great job.  However, I was most impressed with Poppy Montgomery (who played Jo from around age 25 on in the film).  She really sold the part 110%, not just in looks, but she really picked up on a lot of the mannerisms you see from Rowling in interviews and the like.

In short, if you really love Harry Potter like I do, then you will likely enjoy this made-for-tv biopic.  If, however, you are not big into the series, I doubt you will find much here.  Her life definitely has some interesting parts, but not necessarily enough to keep a non-fan viewer fully engaged.

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