Discovering who you are is a journey that lasts a lifetime.
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. is a 2023 coming-of-age comedy drama film directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, written by Kelly Fremon Craig, produced by Gracie Films, and distributed by Lionsgate. It is based off of Judy Blume's 1970 novel of the same name. The film stars Abby Ryder Fortson and Rachel McAdams.
"We must! We must! We must increase our bust!" - The Girls' Secret Society
Eleven-year-old Margaret Simon is dealing with a lot. Having just moved, she befriends a new group of girls while experiencing the awkwardness of puberty. All the while, she deals with a crisis of religion, unsure whether to lean more Christian or Jewish due to her split parentage.
I've never read a Judy Blume book (with the exception of Freckle Juice), so I didn't really know what to expect from this movie. I saw the trailer and wasn't really interested, but it got great reviews, so I decided to check it out.
And let me cut straight to the chase: this movie is great.
Let's start with the performances. The three leading ladies (Abby Ryder Fortson, Rachel McAdams, and Kathy Bates) are all fantastic. McAdams deserves an Oscar nom for her performance and Fortson and Bates should be seriously considered. They elevate this movie to another level. Fortson nails the awkwardness of middle school and puberty. She has the right amount of charm mixed in with middle-school teenager. McAdams plays a great 70s mom with fantastic emotional range. And Kathy Bates plays a loving Jewish grandma that was the funniest character in the film. All three of these performances will most likely be on my best performances list at the end of the year.
I also thought that this movie really nailed the coming-of-age aspect. It's a story about puberty and the awkwardness of growing up, but it tells it all with this sweet, light-hearted wrap around it. It plays up the comedic elements of middle school, almost being satirical at points. What Turning Red played out in a weird, uncomfortable way, Margaret plays out in a funny, charming way that I thought was way more resonant.
The film also has this period piece element to it that I really enjoyed. Rarely does it happen where a book is adapted into a film for the first time after fifty years, but the movie made the choice to keep the setting in the 70s. There's a version of this story that could easily be updated to modern times, but I'm glad that the directors and writers chose to keep it in the 70s, because it just adds this fun period piece aspect that just rounds out the film.
I'm a guy. I'm a junior in high school. This movie is about middle school girls experiencing puberty. It doesn't seem like I'm the target audience, but Margaret actually has incredibly wide appeal. Despite being a film about middle school girls and puberty, the movie has really relatable themes about family and religion and trying to fit in. I don't think the trailers did a good job of marketing that aspect of the story, but it really can reach a broad audience. My entire theater was laughing at the awkward jokes and scenarios. Everyone, including the adult men in the theater, clapped at the end. It's a relatable story that everyone will enjoy.
This movie almost feels like it could be this generation's Breakfast Club. Obviously, it's about middle school and not high school, which is a big difference, but this feels like it could truly be the coming-of-age film of a generation. Much like the novel it's based off of, this film is comfortable discussing topics that aren't often talked about. And, as I said before, it does it all with this warm, light-hearted tone that really plays up the comedy and makes it funny instead of awkward.
There are two things that I didn't like about this movie.
First off, I think it hops into the story really quickly. We get basically no setup and then we automatically jump into the inciting action, and it feels weird. Our characters have strong emotional reactions to the inciting action, but it feels jarring, because we don't really know any of them. Once it takes a second to breathe and let us relax with the characters, it gets great, but it takes a minute to settle in to its skin.
I think this movie has fantastic characters, but the way it uses them is a little weird. The first half of the film deals much more with Margaret's friends and her school life, while the second half deals more with her family life. This makes the movie almost feel like two separate stories that never overlap. Nancy, who is one of Margaret's friends, has tons of screentime in the first hour and then basically disappears about halfway through until the very end. Because of this, the movie could feel a little bit stilted and uneven at times.
But that doesn't hold this back from being a fantastic film.
Final Thoughts and Score
Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. is the best film of the year so far. Great performances, characters, and storytelling make this a must-see for genuinely anyone.
I will go Sweet here. Age range is 9+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
"Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret."
Fun Factor: 8.5/10
Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, thematic elements
Released on April 28, 2023
1 hour and 46 minutes
Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret Simon
Rachel McAdams as Barbara Simon
Kathy Bates as Sylvia Simon
Benny Safdie as Herb Simon
Elle Graham as Nancy Wheeler
Echo Kellum as Mr. Benedict
Kate MacCluggage as Jan Wheeler
Amari Price as Janie Loomis
Katherine Kupferer as Gretchen Potter
Isol Young as Laura Danker
Aidan Wojtak-Hissong as Moose Freed
Landon S. Baxter as Evan Wheeler
Simms May as Norman Fisher