There are only a few things more boring to depict on screen than the fine art of writing. Painting can be passionate, sculpting can be sensuous (heyyy Ghost), but writing… well. The greatest drama comes from the slow deterioration of our wrists, am I right? Do your stretches, kids!
Understandably, film and television stay away from the harsh reality. Some films take us into the narratives being written. Others focus on chipper montages of writers at their desks. But Magic Beyond Words, Lifetime’s 2011 unauthorized biopic of J.K. Rowling, goes a different route. A more ~*whimsical*~ route.
When single mother Rowling (played by Poppy Montgomery) finally gets some time to write, she ducks into a cafe. Stuck on a scene (presumably, the climax of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I'm a Yank don't @ me), she glances around for inspiration and finds two men playing chess. Under her eye, however, the pieces transform into Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, Norman Invasion Edition.
All of Edinburgh becomes magical under Rowling’s eyes, to communicate her unique authorial vision. Like this bank MELTING OH GOD
By the way, this montage is the first overtly magical thing in Magic Beyond Words. And inside that nightmare bank? Why, the cashier who serves Rowling turns into a goblin.
This is legitimately the most impressive special effect in this entire movie.
Magic Beyond Words is a deeply superficial television movie that I would argue is the spiritual prequel to Lifetime’s Will and Kate and Harry and Meghan biopics. They're all scientifically engineered to pair with white wine on Sunday afternoon. But we must give credit where credit it is due. Tasked with bringing Rowling’s worlds to life on a television budget while furiously tapdancing around the IP at the very heart of things, Magic Beyond Words manages to moderately succeed. Lifetime knows we want an achievable amount of fantasy in our lives. And those fantasies are floating candles! And healthy relationships! And being able to nail an entire book in the first draft!
Now that’s magic beyond words.