I remember reading the Judy Blume book, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret when I was in the fourth grade. As I was making my way through the agonizing and embarrassing stages of adolescence, this book reached my friends and I like a giant hug, assuring us that we were not alone. It allowed us to talk about what we were going through, but in a less personal and revealing way. We could laugh about it and kind of blame it on the characters (that mean girl, the cute boy) in the book. Director Kelly Fremon Craig does a fantastic job bringing this iconic coming-of-age story to the big screen.
Abby Ryder Forston plays 11 year old Margaret, navigating her way through all the awkwardness of that age. When her parents announce a sudden move to the suburbs, Abby sparks a dialogue with God. She asks innocent and often relatable questions, and her performance is magnetic, funny, and charming.
Margaret’s move brings on struggles with relationships with new friends, her family, and her faith. Having a Christian mother and a Jewish father, religion was kind of ignored except to say Margaret could make her own choice when the time came. Guided by a kind new teacher, Margaret begins to explore different beliefs to figure out what religion means to her, and who she is becoming.
One of the most heartwarming relationships is with her outspoken Grandmother Sylvia (Kathy Bates). It’s clear the two have a special bond where they can share more than just your typical handing down of recipes stuff. Also side note -isn’t Kathy Bates just wonderful in everything she does?
The stand out performances come from the young actors. This was a time before cell phones and social media influencers. These kids relied on their parents and one another for status, acceptance, and definition. Elle Graham is extraordinary as Nancy, the imperious girl to first befriend Margaret. She gives her a sort of suburban christening, running through sprinklers together. Margaret becomes part of Nancy’s “secret club” with two other fantastic actresses Amai Alexis Price as Janie and Katherine Mallen Kupferer as Gretchen. Together they traverse training bras, fashionable parties, getting their periods, and of course, boys.
Rachel McAdams is a natural as Margaret’s mom Barbara. She is also struggling with the new move and reinventing/rediscovering herself. All the while, she remains connected to Margaret in a way that only mothers can. There is a scene – remembering it now, I’m tearing up again – when Margaret is yelling at her family and stomps out of the room (as pre-teens do). Barbara looks at her husband and owns the behavior, blaming herself, under her breath saying something like “this is on me,” gripping her chest. I lost it.
Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret is a heartwarming, realistic journey of self discovery that touches on so many relatable moments in one young girl’s life. Of course, being a young girl of the seventies, (and a mom now), it really hit home for me. You can tell Judy Blume was a part of this as it respectfully reflects the emotions and tenderness of the original book. This was filmed locally here in Charlotte, and it was fun to see many friends in the background again!