Judy Blume books and childhood reading have been synonymous for over 50 years, and much of that started thanks to the author’s 1970 book, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. The middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old girl going through adolescence has connected multiple generations of readers, and it finally comes to life on screen for the first time with The Edge of Seventeen writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig – who has made a faithful adaptation that has as much of an enduring quality as the book itself.
Release Date: April 28, 2023
Directed By: Kelly Fremon Craig
Written By: Kelly Fremon Craig
Starring: Abby Ryder Fortson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Benny Safdie, Elle Graham, Amari Alexis Price, and Kate MacCluggage
Rating: PG-13 for thematic material involving sexual education and some suggestive material
Runtime: 105 minutes
I could name tons of classic movies that focus on boyhood, whether it be The Goonies, the Harry Potter movies or Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but let’s face it, growing into a woman is still an awkward topic. The early adolescent years means one’s first period, owning a first bra and dealing with all sorts of odd feelings. Hollywood hasn’t found too many exciting ways to relate to the rite of passages every young girl experiences, as common as it may be. The new adaptation, which is based on a script by Kelly Fremon Craig, finds a way to have the period talk with a friendly tone that is nostalgic, tender and accessible enough that it won’t only touch other young women, but the whole family.
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret has a timeless appeal that doesn’t pander to the social media generation.
One might imagine in 2023, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret would be updated and altered to speak to 11-year-olds of today, who are obviously inundated with technology and social media profiles, but among the best choices that this movie makes is both the decision to keep the story in the 1970s and maintain its relatability anyway. Though it may be a period piece (pun intended), a specific year is never given, and the way in which the story unfolds without the "when" of it all is carefully executed. Much of the events of the story could very well take place today, and, of course, very much do in households across the world in a variety of contexts. Plus, it allows for the few other woman-centric coming-of-age features like Eighth Grade or Turning Red to stand on their own.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret revolves around Abby Ryder Fortson’s titular Margaret Simon, who one day learns that her parents – played sweetly by Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie – have decided to move their family out of their New York City apartment to a home in New Jersey. Margaret isn’t excited about the change, alongside her close grandmother, played by Kathy Bates. As Margaret takes on the challenges of fitting into a new school, the changes happening to her body (or not happening fast enough) and family woes, she seeks solace in her private conversations she has with God. The movie proves why Judy Blume’s book has remained a universal story for a half-century, and thank goodness this movie is confident in telling the story as the author intended it in its original form.
The movie is old-fashioned but thoughtful in its discussion of girlhood and an interfaith family.
Each of the actors cast their shine on Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and blends right into the storytelling of the family dramedy. But, it chiefly is the enduring story that speaks for itself in this case – above any specific highlight performance or shot choice. There’s certainly an old-school feel to how this movie was made that can double as being satisfying and yes, a bit uninspired at times, but that being said, the topics being discussed throughout its runtime is overdue after being so thrown to the side in general in the family movie space.
The movie handles period pains with a lighthearted tone, speaking to all the private thoughts young girls deal with when buying pads the first time, discussing with friends about their “first times,” or the idea that one will suddenly be different once they menstruate for the first time. It’s especially made fun through Margaret’s New Jersey friend group, who are all faking it until they make it, considering each of them has never experienced these things yet.
One topic audiences coming from the outside might not expect (other than “God” in the title somewhat giving it away) is the conversation Margaret has to have with herself regarding her religion. Our protagonist is the daughter of parents from different religions, Christianity and Judaism, and the movie delicately follows how children can get in the middle of family differences, and just how much drama and hurt they can create within households. On both fronts, the movie does an excellent job of not only portraying an 11-year-old's perspective, but that of her parents and grandparents. It’s the kind of movie that someone of any age can enjoy and find an access point to connect to.
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is a rather straightforward adaptation of Judy Blume’s beloved book.
What this release achieves as a movie is what Judy Blume has been for decades. Yes, it’s somewhat of a basic family story about going through life as a sixth grader and is very much meant to be approachable and universal to the common and natural woes and exciting moments of coming up as a woman. If only for the purpose of supporting young girls or today’s women, who are often made to feel weird for simply having functioning systems in their bodies, we have a new comfort coming-of-age movie adaptation in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.