Lifetime movie goes behind the magic of J.K. Rowling

By Karl J. Paloucek

If you don’t know who she is, you must be an expert at hiding from all forms of media. It’s been nearly a decade and a half since J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series first captivated young readers. (The final film based on her books, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, premieres in theaters today, and it has already set a midnight screening record.) Many of those initial young eyes are now likely finishing college, some are getting married, some are having children and many, in these recent economically challenging times, are coming to grips with how tough the real world can be. Some might even be wishing they had a bit of that magic that they’ve never forgotten from Rowling’s books.

Before Rowling had her own first taste of success, she didn’t have it so easy herself. But her story is almost more inspiring than that of Harry Potter’s, and now it’s the subject of an original television movie. Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story, premiering on Lifetime July 18, stars Poppy Montgomery as the author whose flights of fancy as a young girl and encouragement from her mother led her to become one of the most wildly popular publishing phenomena of all time.

It’s an unauthorized biographical film, but based on the well-known rags-to-riches story of Rowling’s improbable and fantastic rise to fame. Beginning with an interpretation of her childhood, playing at witches and magic with her sister and others, the film carries through her rebellious teen years and beyond, when a series of impetuous personal decisions set her on a difficult path. After escaping a disastrous marriage to a Portuguese man, she finds herself a single mother on the dole. But with the right encouragement and a wealth of inner strength, she manages to set the literary world afire with the results of her passion.

As made-for-TV biopics go, it’s a good effort, if a little lacking in subtlety at times, particularly where the “winks” it gives to certain real-life references that fans of the books and films will recognize are concerned. But it’s a girl-power film about a girl-power story, at heart, and should be enjoyable for anyone who’s a fan, of either gender, whether 8 or 80.


Credit: M. Williams/Lifetime