You Must… You Must… You Must… see this movie!!
To say girlhood is never easy is an understatement and possibly never has a film spoken to young girls more than “ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME MARGARET”– Judy Blume‘s classic coming-of-stage story. The film is set in 1970 but its themes of growing up are truly timeless.
The film starts right after Margaret Simon (Abby Ryder Fortson), finishes summer camp between fifth and sixth grade. She returns to her families New York City apartment where her Grandma Sylvia (Kathy Bates), blurts out that she is moving to New Jersey i.e., ‘the burbs’ (oh the horrors!). Her father Herb (Benny Safdie), has a new job, and her mom her mother Barbara (Rachel McAdams), well she is going to join the PTA. Before they can even unpack, Nancy (Elle Graham) is at the door and they rush off to become quick friends, with Elle using her knowledge of puberty as a form of control. And before long, Margaret and the others in the ‘secret club’ members, Janie (Amari Alexis Price) and Gretchen (Katherine Mallen Kupferer), believe getting their first period and growing breasts are the only path toward happiness. The club also gossips – mostly about which boys they are obsessed with, but also about one of their shall we say, more developed classmates, Laura Danker (Isol Young).
Life comes at you fast–this is a reality that young Margaret and her friends find out in so many different ways and the script simply follows Margaret along as she attempts to navigate a new school, a difficult task for anyone, but here the focus from director Kelly Fremon Craig, is wielded towards showing it can be funny to anyone who witnesses it from the outside, whether it be Nancy or even Margaret’s parents. Her mother taking her to shop for a bra, while Margaret mostly hides what she really feels from Nancy and the others. Her secret crush on Moose (Aidan Wojtak-Hissong), and how it’s portrayed is perfectly done with a sense of curiosity and hilarity all at the same time.
But the easy subjects are what are the point here. It’s the harder ones as when Margaret has to leave the Grandma she adores, and finds out about why she’s never met her other side of grandparents. The questions that arise in her about religion leading into her asking the primary question we’ve all probably asked at one time or another “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret”. Along with a developing body that one just doesn’t know what to do with, and the feelings that come with finding out who your friends just might really be, they all flow out here in at a pace that isn’t too slow and not too fast – all coming together to make these things handle all of this simplistic adventure so well to many audiences.
Truly this is how you make a faith based movie. Where instead of preaching to the choir and having it thrown in your face – you demonstrate challenges and questions for the character to fill in your own interpretations, bringing about a discussion for the audience and characters alike. Adding in that the film has brilliant comedic pace giving each moment proper of time to be enjoyed or again, pacing itself enough to cause you to feel with each and every character along with the drama and stress of each situation Margaret faces.
To add icing to the cake is the powerhouse performance by Abby Ryder Fortson as without this beautiful interpretation by her, this film would not be as almost perfect as it is. Along with her cast of friends, Elle Graham playing that bossy almost teen is just too pefect for words. Kathy Bates, while not being on screen as much as we’d like her to be, makes an impact, as well as McAdams playing the ‘cool mom’ and Safdie pulling up the rear as a just overall good dad. Without these performances this movie just might not have worked as well as it did. And lest we forget the soundtrack – which is nothing short of badass. It helps to propel the film forward and creating something that when the music plays, it fills the screen and works to supplement the characters, and the narrative. The songs help to develop and set the tones throughout the course of the film.
“Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret” should win over audiences of all ages through its likable cast, and its sweet approach to potentially challenging material. Whether it be sex, religion or purpose in life the film dives into the innocence of these subject matter and how they would be experienced by so many – capturing that anxiety, joy, and pain in pefect harmony.
Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies or Instagram: Peggyatthemovies
Review Screening: Courtesy of Lionsgate Films
“ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME MARGARET” FROM LIONSGATE IS OUT IN THEATERS FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2023