A lively adaptation of Judy Blume’s bestselling YA classic hits theaters this weekend
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was a must-read as I was growing up. Since its publication in 1970, the book has faced a couple generations’ worth of censorship and banning. Judy Blume*’s book kept selling throughout, being introduced to new groups of kids facing the challenges of puberty. It’s not until 2023 that Blume’s bestseller received a big-screen adaptation, but what an adaptation it is! This film was almost worth the wait.
Edge of Seventeen’s Kelly Fremon Craig, who also directs the movie, centers young Margaret’s point of view in the screenplay while adding depth to the characters of her mom and grandmother. Craig’s film has all the adolescent awkwardness and humor of Blume’s book, along with the wit and bite that was evident in the filmmaker’s 2016 teen comedy. As we follow the young girl in her sixth grade year, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret consistently charms the viewer with the lead character’s take on the world and her desire to grow up.
Abby Ryder Fortson plays Margaret, starting sixth grade in a new school and a new state and trying to find her place. She and her new group of friends (a secret club of gals who don’t wear socks) are obsessed with growing their bust, getting their periods, and having crushes on annoying boys. There’s a sense of authenticity to the performances by the child actors cast here, along with a naivety accurate for the time period. No over-the-top kid actors in the bunch (thank God).
Barbara, Margaret’s mom, quits her job to spend more time on her art but overcommits to volunteering for the PTA. Her character deals with a similar kind of crisis of identity to what her daughter is encountering, and Rachel McAdams proves a natural in this part. While Margaret visits different places of worship in hopes of finding a spiritual fit, Barbara’s feelings of isolation after the move lead her to take on more than she can handle. She wants to be involved in her daughter’s life, but also supports Margaret’s independence. McAdams provides a keen warmth and openness to the role, even during Barbara’s moments of doubt. She, Fortson, and Kathy Bates as grandmother Sylvia deliver equally compelling performances as three generations of Simon women, using humor to cope with challenging moments in life.
The casting for this film is faultless, from the aforementioned non-annoying kid actors to the supporting characters played by Echo Kellum (Grand Crew) and Benny Safdie (Good Time). Add in the outstanding production design by Steve Saklad (the soda cans! the packs of maxi pads!) along with the fun ’70s-tastic soundtrack, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is likely one of the best films you’ll see this year.
*Author Blume appears in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo (along with her husband, I believe!) during a neighborhood montage sequence.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret opens in theaters nationwide this weekend.