Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
April 28th, 2023
MOVIE: ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET.
STARRING: ABBY RYDER FORTSON, RACHEL MCADAMS, KATHY BATES, BENNY SAFDIE
DIRECTED BY: KELLY FREMON CRAIG
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Last week was the release of the documentary Judy Blume Forever and this week it’s the release of the feature adaptation of Blume’s hit Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. It’s safe to say that everyone is having Judy Blume fever and I have it as well. The question I have is why has it taken this long for a movie with her material to be made. We know the answer is years of misogyny and the limits of women’s stories being told on the big screen but I was even reflecting on my own childhood. I never got the “sex talk” with my parents, in fact, I am pretty sure what I picked up was from brief sex ed classes, my brother, my bonehead friends, and television. Not exactly a healthy way to learn. Which is all why I found Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is such a spectacular film, a deeply necessary film, and a wonderful reflection on the awkward stages of childhood.
The time is 1970, when 11-year-old Margaret Simon (Abby Ryder Fortson) has finished summer camp and is excited to get back home in New York with her mother Barbara (Rachel McAdams), father Herb (Benny Safdie), and grandma Sylvia (Kathy Bates). Before she can get settled, she’s told the news that her dad has a new job and they are moving to the suburbs of New Jersey, a move she is not happy about. New friends, new neighborhood, new school- and not to mention- Margaret is going through her own set of physical changes. Everything is scary and it even has Margaret turning to God, or A God, asking for help in her journey. The problem is, Margaret is not religious.
It’s all of those subject matters and more that make this production a sheer delight and success impressive. It handles tough subject matters for kids in a fearless way. The director is Kelly Fremon Craig, who already proved herself the perfect fit with her hit The Edge of Seventeen, and makes us feel right at home. The director’s adaptation is stellar, mixing in the uncomfortable moments for Margaret, but also showing attention to Barbara’s conflicts, being a stay-at-home mom, her own dysfunction with her parents, and being there for Margret in these confusing times. It all comes off flawlessly when you have a pair of amazing performances from newcomer Fortson and reliable McAdams.
The minor complaint I had was the film’s lack of general male characters, as Herb is an aloof but loving father and we meet a pair of local boys that Margaret makes puppy eyes at. That is expected because it is a story about being a girl but it should still be required for boys just as much. The major attention is Margaret and we walk in her shoes. We see the internal strife to choose to follow Judaism or the Christian faith. Having feelings for another boy. Or just the drama with her new group of friends Gretchen (Katherine Mallen Kupferer), Janie (Amari Alexis Price), and Nancy Wheeler (Elle Graham). They create a club, make notebooks about boys they think are cute, discuss getting bras (even though they don’t need them), and the excitement of getting their periods. These are the things that girls talked about in 1970 and talk about in 2023 and it’s high time we move past treating it as a taboo topic.
It’s the genuine heart in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. that won me over from frame one. Kathy Bates is delightful, McAdams is great, and the bright new star is Abby Ryder Fortson. Her performance is authentic and lived in. These are the types of movies we should be showing our children and a coming-of-age story that we can all empathize with. I absolutely adored Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Finally, a movie that has answered our prayers.
ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET IS IN THEATERS FRIDAY APRIL 28TH, 2023.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady