ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET (2023)
Starring Abby Ryder Fortson, Rachel McAdams, Elle Graham, Benny Safdie, Kathy Bates, Echo Kellum, Isol Young, Amari Alexis Price, Katherine Kupferer, Kate MacCluggage, Aidan Wojtak-Hissong, Landon Baxter, Mackenzie Joy Potter, Olivia Frances Williams, Michael Platarote, Simms May, Zackary Brooks, JeCobi Swain, Eden Lee, Naida Nelson and Tahirah Harrison.
Screenplay by Kelly Fremon Craig.
Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig.
Distributed by Lionsgate Films. 106 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Judy Blume seems to be going through a pop culture resurgence. Just last week Judy Blume Forever, a documentary on the life and career of the author who pioneered young adult novels, started spreading through towns across the country. Now, after 53 years, we have the release of a film based on what is arguably Blume’s most beloved book, the sweet and refreshingly frank coming-of-age story Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret has been a standard of school curriculums and a favorite of young girls for decades. It is a smart and funny look at growing up in the 1960s, trying to figure out all the important things in life for tween girls – religion, family, puberty, friendship, boys…. And, for better or worse, I have never seen a film which spent so much time subtly contemplating menstruation.
The film version is helmed by writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig, who has surprisingly been pretty much missing in action since 2016, when she released yet another fantastic coming-of-age film for young women, the original narrative The Edge of Seventeen.
It turns out that the mix of Judy Blume and Kelly Fremon Craig is a potent one, because Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is a delight. It is an intelligent, empathetic, humorous and not the least bit patronizing look at childhood.
Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) is a twelve-year-old girl in the midst of a lot of upheaval. It is the late 1960s (I’d say about 1968, on a guess.) Her parents (Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie) have just moved from her beloved New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey. She’s left behind her friends and now must negotiate a new school. She misses her beloved grandmother (Kathy Bates) and her home.
And she’s not sure how she feels about her new friends, particularly Nancy (Elle Graham), who thinks she knows everything about everything, but deep down may just be a scared and mean little girl.
The film looks at Margaret’s search for faith – her dad is a lapsed Jew; mom is a lapsed Catholic. They have always contended that Margaret will decide on her own religious beliefs when she is ready – much to the disappointment of the grandparents. She is also negotiating junior high school (that’s middle school now) politics and whether or not the boy down the street is cute and likes her.
It’s a simple story of growth, and yet it’s also layered and complex. Even the so-called villains (we’re looking at you, Nancy) are just confused and scared of what is coming at them way too quickly. And none of these kids, particularly Margaret, can just sit back and enjoy just being children, instead rushing growth that they will eventually come to all too soon.
Young Abby Ryder Fortson is a wonderful center to the story, and McAdams and Bates are delights as mom and grandmom.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret isn’t trying to answer all of the questions of childhood and puberty, but it is a sweet and nostalgic look at the journey to young adulthood.
This movie was worth the long wait.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2023 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 28, 2023.