While fans of the book will love Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret’s faithfulness onscreen, the film itself serves as a much-needed coming-of-age story that provides a tale through the eyes of a young girl. Radiating charm and oozing sincerity, it seems this film will likely join its source material in remaining a classic for years to come.
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret tells the story of a young girl named Margaret Simon (Abby Ryder Fortson), who finds herself in the all-too-painful transition between childhood and young adulthood, and all that comes with it. The film is adapted from the 1970 novel of the same name, written by Judy Blume.
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, has remained a staple in the canon of classic young adult novels, as it has resonated with readers, particularly young female readers, for over fifty years. Offering an honest and nonjudgmental look at the awkwardness of puberty, Blume created a story that has allowed young girls to feel less alone in the uncomfortableness of growing up. Now, fifty-three years later, young audiences can rediscover this story for the first time.
This film serves justice to the book by remaining true to the story that we know and love. However, there’s something all the more real about watching Margaret’s story unfold in real time. The film opens with a few shots of Margaret at summer camp: playing outdoors, swimming in the lake. She is carefree and happy, unaware of the changes that she is about to experience. However, upon her return from camp, her parents (Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie) announce that they will be moving from New York City to suburban New Jersey, where Margaret will have to start sixth grade at a new school. Margaret, who has no religion on account of her parents being of different faiths, turns to God to help her navigate these upcoming changes, opening each prayer with the title phrase, “Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret.” What ensues is an exploration of growing up, understanding the world, and chasing a sense of belief in something greater.
While the screenplay drags a little bit in the second act, it strikes a perfect balance of staying true to the book while still remaining fresh for modern audiences. Which is simultaneously a compliment to both Kelly Fremon Craig, who wrote and directed the film, and Judy Blume. Blume shows once again that she is able to create timeless characters who can remain relevant throughout the decades, while Craig’s screenplay allows for a bit more modern take on the subjects, despite the film being set in 1970, the year the book was released.
The performances in this film are all strong, with McAdams and Safdie giving sweet performances as Margaret’s parents. Kathy Bates also gives a standout performance as Sylvia, Margaret’s eccentric grandmother. However, the true star of the film is Abby Ryder Fortson, who gives a truly breakout performance. Fortson brings a level of such heartfelt earnestness to her performance as the title character, that one can’t help but be completely charmed by her on screen. She manages to showcase all the sides of puberty: the remaining childhood innocence, the confusion that comes with losing that innocence, the frustration, the anger, the searching for something bigger.
There is something about watching this young girl search for an understanding of the world and herself that is just so sincere, it frankly carries the entire film. It’s all but certain that this role will catapult Fortson to further success, and given that she’s able to give such a layered performance at just fifteen years old, it will be delightful to see how her career shapes as the years go on.
While fans of the book will love Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret’s faithfulness onscreen, the film itself serves as a much needed coming of age story that provides a tale through the eyes of a young girl. Radiating charm and oozing sincerity, it seems this film will likely join its source material in remaining a classic for years to come.
Should be Considered: Best Adapted Screenplay
Release Date: April 28, 2023
Where to Watch: In Theaters
Lives in NC, where she is on a first name basis with the owners of her favorite pho spot.
Favorite Actress: Angela Bassett
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