‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ Review

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret official poster.

Note from Marvelous Geeks’ Team: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the [series/movie/etc] being covered here wouldn’t exist. We stand with and for them.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is a wholesome, gorgeously satisfying coming-of-age film that emphasizes the importance of agency. Based on the renowned novel by Judy Blume, it beautifully adapts the story in a manner that will stand the test of time as intricately as the book does. As it focuses on girlhood and the early awkward tween years, it also draws focus to religion, looking into what works and what doesn’t.

There’s plenty about Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret that works, but much of it boils down to the authenticity that writer and director Kelly Fremon Craig emphasizes. The story is about Margaret, and its unabashed focus on her emotions allows the narrative to move through familiar character beats. In most teen dramas, the plot tends to blow up aberrantly, pushing attention away from the characters’ emotions in favor of dramatization. Yet here, Craig shines a stunning light on the simple moments that exist alongside the profoundly challenging times.

Margaret and her parents hugging in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

Both adolescence and religion are tough to portray on screen. It either feels too fabricated or so pedantic that it becomes hard to care. But this is a story about a girl trying to figure out what direction she wants to take, and the transparency in her confusion makes the story work. Margaret, embodied to near perfection by Ant-Man’s Abby Ryder Fortson, is born to a Christian mother, Barbara (Rachel McAdams), and a Jewish father, Herb (Benny Safdie). Her parents didn’t raise her with either of their denominations, instead giving her the agency to choose whichever deity she finds herself drawn to. Naturally, it causes conflicts with grandparents and uproars that rise amidst the challenges of a new school and a budding crush.

The narrative works because Blume’s means of telling compelling and thought-provoking stories through simple changes will forever stand as her brilliant legacy. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret leaves the audience with much to think about with plenty of space to breathe, even when a reasonable amount is happening. This isn’t a quiet character study, but it’s loud and rambunctious at times. It’s chaotic, it’s hilarious, and it’s deeply heartbreaking too. Rachel McAdams continues to prove that there’s not a single role she can’t take on with an entirely magnificent embodiment. Fortson holds her own impeccably alongside McAdams, making some of the most tender and honest moments feel groundbreaking.

Margaret and her mother Barbara in Are You There God? It's Me Margaret.

Periods aren’t a foreign concept to anyone, no matter how efficiently some spheres try to deny it. Yet, films seldom cover that initial moment and what it truly means with such a gentle approach. There’s humor and sadness here, too, because for the adults watching, we know how unbearable cramps can be, so to see kids wait eagerly for their first beats of “womanhood” is certainly something. Still, it’s heartfelt and warm because it’s an authentic display of how many have felt. It’s an intriguing, wholesome experience. At the same time, the intricate threading between hope and cynicism makes Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, such an elaborate delight.

Margaret prays with hope and sincerity, but Margaret also doubts. Like with her prayers, she’s also unsure whether she’s ready to kiss a boy and whether she should follow this new league of friends. She’s uncertain about bras and shoes without socks, but part of adolescence is doing things because we want to feel included, and the story ensures that the viewers understand this notion without overtly telling us so. This is where Fortson’s incredible performances come into play because she shows the audience everything they need to know, even when there are no words. She’s also a star alongside her grandmother, Kathy Bates’ Sylvia Simon. This film succeeds entirely because of the collaborative effort between the actors and the words on the page, showcasing the importance of the current WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Artificial intelligence could never in a million years adapt a beloved novel with such heart and sincerity. It could never take the most essential pieces and breathe a new set of life into them to ensure they resonate with all audiences.

There are myriad coming-of-age novels and films in our time, yet Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is still so profoundly special and wholesome. It brilliantly tells a story that will reverberate with generations to come, and it effectively emphasizes the importance of agency throughout the entirety of its plot. The character-driven story is an undeniable triumph in all areas, making it a must-see coming-of-age film.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is now available for purchase.
Official Poster Credit: ©Lionsgate


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