For over fifty years, Judy Blume’s classic and groundbreaking novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. has impacted generations with its timeless coming of age story, insightful humor, and candid exploration of life’s biggest questions. In Lionsgate’s big-screen adaptation, 11-year-old Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) is uprooted from her life in New York City for the suburbs of New Jersey, going through the messy and tumultuous throes of puberty with new friends in a new school. She relies on her mother, Barbara (Rachel McAdams), who is also struggling to adjust to life outside the big city, and her adoring grandmother, Sylvia (Kathy Bates), who isn’t happy they moved away and likes to remind them every chance she gets.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is so joyfully stuck in 1970’s angst, first menstrual period anxiety, curiosity and frustration that it seems new. Me Margaret makes the problems of me-Margaret(Abby Ryder Fortson), Elle (Nancy Wheeler), Janie (Amari Alexis Price), and Gretchen (Katherine Mallen Kupferer) , the firsts of girlhood- besides period onset, first bra, kiss and such- to use an oxymoron- uniquely common.
Tapping generously into the Judy Blume source, Me Margaret captures faithfully and precisely, the flux of the early teen girl experience. All the change featured in the plot mirrors that emotional transformation. There’s a new house, neighbors, school, friends, even a new body to deal with. It’s easy to see how this can be too much for Margaret to handle, that she asks for the title divine intervention.
This is a film that will resonate for mothers and daughters who are just reading Judy Blume, and the now mothers, who read it decades ago. Parties featuring Spin the Bottle and Seven Minutes in Heaven feel so true to life. In a change from the book, both Margaret’s mother (Rachel McAdams) and grandmother (Kathy Bates) get their own subplots tied to the unions and confrontations that their Jewish and Christian religious upbringing create. Surprisingly, they don’t have all the answers.
The director, Kelly Fremon Craig (the wonderful Edge of Seventeen) finds the humor in teen years without ever mocking her characters. The laugh are all life based, empathy derived from a common emotional memory. It gives the sanitary pad and bra fitting shopping scenes the gentle nostalgic glow of hindsight wisdom. Even better, the girls are allowed to be girls. They aren’t infantilized or sexualized. The older audience can relate to the joyful innocence and its quaint past free of social media, computers and cellphones.
Like Judy Blume, the film can still teach mothers and daughters a few things about themselves. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret is one of the better and relatable films of the year. It gets a 4.0 out of 5 or an A-. It’s streaming on STARZ.
Kelly Fremon Craig
by Judy Blume
- James L. Brooks
- Julie Ansell
- Kelly Fremon Craig
- Judy Blume
- Amy Lorraiine Brooks
- Aldric La’auli Porter
- Nick Moore
- Oona Flaherty
- April 23, 2023(SFIFF)
- April 28, 2023(United States)