Parents' Guide to

Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story

By Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Superficial, unauthorized drama about writer's rise to fame.

Movie NR 2011 90 minutes
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MAGIC BEYOND WORDS: THE J.K. ROWLING STORY checks off all the right boxes in telling Rowling's rags-to-riches tale. We see Rowling as a young child playing games of magic, a teenager with a red-headed friend she says is a bit weasel-y, and a young woman on a train ride dreaming of a young wizard. Sprinkled throughout are the filmmaker's notions of where Rowling may have found inspiration for various characters -- a stern lecturer here, a stodgy bureaucrat there. But since this film is unauthorized, it's hard to say how accurate it is outside of Rowling's public accounts of the genesis of her books. And the writing process or what those early drafts were about, or how she hashed out the story, is keenly absent from the film. Additionally, the filmmakers make the creative process look tidy, as if the story comes easily enough but the real struggle is simply finding the time to jot it down.

Fans may be enthralled no matter what to see this depiction of Rowling's stomping grounds and the flourishes of Potter throughout, but casual observers may feel the result is more surface recounting than probing revelation. There are some heavy themes, with Rowling's mother's death and some scenes of domestic violence, and it's exciting to see anyone spend years struggling as a writer only to finally make the big sale that changes everything. Still, would-be writers looking to gain insight into craft will be disappointed, as this is a story mainly concerned with getting Rowling to the point of the first movie debut, and it's less interested in helping us understand how Rowling managed to imagine what became the most successful books ever sold.

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