Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret is the adaptation of the legendary and important book by Judy Blume, which has helped millions of young girls as they go through adolescence. The film is directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, and it stars Abby Ryder Fortson, Rachel McAdams, and Kathy Bates.
Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret is the story of an 11-year-old girl named Margaret (Fortson) who comes of age in New York City at the beginning of the film before she is made to move to the suburbs of New Jersey. For her sixth-grade school project, she has to research religion, and she comes from a Christian and Jewish background; at the same time, she is going through puberty and adolescence along with her three friends and classmates.
Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret is an absolute gem. It is funny, it is relatable even for a 21st century audience, and it is really moving. All of that is anchored by the incredible and winning performance by Fortson who carries the movie. Fortson’s Margaret is vulnerable and subject to strong emotions she doesn’t always understand, and the film also allows Fortson to portray Margaret as a lively, happy kid. There isn’t a second when we don’t believe Fortson’s portrayal, and she shouldn’t be forgotten later in the year when critics are filling out their awards ballots.
McAdams is pretty good as Barbara, Margaret’s mother. In most of the scenes, McAdams understands that this is a high-energy, optimistic film and acts accordingly, bringing a vivacious energy. However, in a couple of the film’s emotional moments, she resorts to an acting trick of wiping away tears that aren’t there; it’s not a major issue, but it’s hard to unsee. Kathy Bates is always fantastic as Margaret’s well-meaning grandmother, a nurturing presence who stares down the barrel of late-middle age, just as Margaret wrestles with the challenges of adolescence.
Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret is rightfully more concerned with the adolescent characters. In a world in which women are made to hate their bodies or be repulsed by natural changes during puberty, an age when there is so much mystery surrounding what they’re going to be, what adulthood has in store, and what is physically happening, Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret deals frankly and earnestly with that awkward period. At the same time, the film rings some humor out of the discomfort.
The only negative thing about Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret is not even the film’s fault. Judy Blume’s classic book has influenced generations of filmmakers, so naturally, audiences have seen some of the scenes in this film. The spin the bottle and two minutes in the closet scenes, the awkwardness of girls buying sanitary napkins from boy cashiers, and the fretting over periods and breast development have all been seen before. A victim of its own success, Blume’s influence has caused the coming-of-age genre to lap the original.
Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret is a special, delightful movie. The movie does not sugarcoat the trauma and difficulty of adolescence, but it ultimately concludes that if you are lucky enough to have kind people around you and you are kind to others, you will get through it all, and not only will you survive; you will thrive.