REVIEW: ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ Is Worth the Wait
4.5/5 boxes of pads
From the moment we, as young people, were given Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, we found ourselves in a story that was always meant to help young people understand their own bodies and growing up. For years, young people were all forced to primarily relate to the coming-of-age stories of boys. Rarely was there a young girl at the helm of it, but then the novel, published in 1970, became a beacon for young teens throughout the decades.
Still, despite its beloved status as a novel, it was never adapted for the screen. There were constant talks about it, and even when I was growing up, the idea of doing it was around. But no one did it—until now. The Kelly Fremon Craig adaptation of the Judy Blume novel is getting ready to hit theaters and it is a showcase for star Abby Ryder Forston as well as a reminder that sometimes, things are worth the wait.
Ryder Forston plays Margaret, a young girl who is forced to move to New Jersey from the city and is thrown into a new school with new friends who may or may not all be lying to each other about their own puberty just to seem more “adult.” But what’s so brilliant about this adaptation is that while it is, at its core, Margaret’s story, it also shows us Margaret’s relationship with her grandmother, Sylvia (Kathy Bates), and her mother, Barbara (Rachel McAdams), and how those two characters are also still figuring out their own lives in the midst of Margaret’s adolescence.
Knowing who you are
Maybe it comes with age and looking at these older characters and recognizing their struggles more than what Margaret is going through (at this point in my life), or maybe it’s just that the movie gives both Barbara and Sylvia more to do, but it’s a beautiful exploration of womanhood and growth. Margaret’s dad, Herb (Benny Safdie), is a sweet, soft-spoken man who is just trying to be there for his family. Margaret’s favorite teacher, Mr. Benedict (Echo Kellum), is one of the few people who listens to his students, and the boys in Margaret’s class are sort of doing their own thing.
That leaves the core of the story about its female characters, which is, often, what happens with male-centric coming-of-age stories. The female characters are almost secondary to the male leads, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret follows that same idea but gives its time to its female characters—which is sadly something that still feels refreshing because we haven’t HAD these stories.
The movie feels timeless because its source material has been for generations. But it is a testament to Fremon Craig’s career, because her previous work includes the movie The Edge of Seventeen, which is, at least for me, the other female coming-of-age story I often think about.
A long time coming
This story has inspired generations of women to open up about how they’re feeling and their changing bodies. For years, we were left watching boys get their coming-of-age stories onscreen while all we had were books—not that a book is a bad thing, but it was a long journey for teenage girls to start to get the same treatment that the boys did in movies, and yet, the wait for this particular adaptation was worth it.
That’s not only because Ryder Forston was literally a perfect choice for Margaret but because the movie as a whole just has a timeless feel to it that makes now, when audiences are still hungry for a teenage girl coming-of-age story, the perfect time to make it.
The movie explores the generational relationships between Margaret and her grandmother vs. Margaret and her mother in a more modern sense, and all that was made possible through waiting for the right time. Paired incredibly well with Kelly Fremon Craig’s writing and direction, it’s just a movie that fans of the book will be proud of and one that’s worth all the years of longing for it.
(featured image: Dana Hawley/Lionsgate)
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