Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret Review
Coming-of-age films for girls are few and far between. Movies that tackle this specific age in a girl's life are basically non-existent. Lucky for girls and women everywhere, Judy Blume's novel explores just such a time from the young female perspective in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, and after fifty-three years since its publication, it has finally gotten a film adaptation. Writer/Director Kelly Fremon Craig (The Edge of Seventeen), bravely takes the task of bringing this story to the big screen and does it so effortlessly, that it feels like an instant classic.
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret follows a pivotal year in the life of our young heroine Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) as she adjusts to several new changes. She's just been uprooted from her familiar life in New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey following her father's new job. Marget is quickly welcomed by her neighbor into a very exclusive girl's club where they make silly rules like "no wearing socks" and spend lots of time gossiping about anything and everything. She confides her innermost thoughts and hopes to God, even though she was intentionally raised by her parents without a specific religion since they each have their own. Her teacher suggests she spend more time examining all religions as a research topic, to help her come to her own conclusions and she soon learns what a complicated topic it can be.
For a story written in 1970, its themes are so timeless for young girls navigating their adolescence. Margaret is such a relatable heroine, due in large part to such an earnest performance by Abby Ryder Fortson. Seeing her journey play out feels so natural and true to life; it's so easy to recognize ourselves in her. She's aided by an amazing supporting cast with Rachel McAdams playing her mother Barbara, Benny Safdie playing her dad Herb, and a scene-stealing Kathy Bates as her Grandma Sylvia. McAdams, in particular, gives one of her most striking performances as a mother handling all of her daughter's changing wants and needs. All the young actresses playing her friends are stellar too, particularly Elle Graham as the too-eager-to-grow-up Nancy Wheeler. There's not a false note in the cast and they have a fantastic director working to get the most genuine performances from them.
I really loved Kelly Fremon Craig's last directorial effort, The Edge of Seventeen, and once again (this time with the help of some fantastic source material,) she authentically creates the world of a young girl trying eagerly to fit in. Though the last time was through the lens of an older teenager in high school dealing with her own set of problems, this time we're taken back to all the growing pains of that age where we're not quite grown up, but we wish we were. Craig balances the innocence and curiosity of this age so perfectly, that it feels like you're reading the very real thoughts inside of a middle schooler's diary.
Honestly, Are You There God? It's Me Margaret's existence feels like an actual miracle. I would have adored a movie like this to relate to growing up, but I'm so happy it exists now both for mothers and daughters alike. There's such a warm feeling of sisterhood to it--a rite of passage in growing up and understanding a more complex world than the comfortable one you were used to. It's not easy to leave that world behind and enter a new scary one, but it's so much easier when we know we're not alone and others have felt the exact same feelings we're feeling.