Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
Updated: Jun 23
The groundbreaking novel gets a straightforward and endearing adaptation
Judy Blume has been leading a bold yet unassuming revolution in the literary world with her books regarding women’s menstruation, sexuality, and puberty. Although she’s been writing for over fifty years, none of her books had been adapted into films or series, perhaps due to the puritanical controversy surrounding them. That has finally changed with the adaptation of one of Blume’s most seminal books: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (2023).
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret takes place in 1970 (the year the book was published) and follows Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) an eleven-year-old girl who moves from New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey with her parents (Benny Safdie, Rachel McAdams). She leaves behind an active and electric grandmother (Kathy Bates) who is always trying to lure her back to the city with the promises of Broadway shows. In New Jersey, Margaret begins sixth grade, and we see her undergo a year of changes in both her mind and body. She begins questioning her atheism, desires to have her first period, and overall is deciding what kind of person she wants to be.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, who brought us another touching coming-of-age film The Edge of Seventeen (2016). Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is only Fremon Craig’s second film as a director, and yet the ability she has, to simplify such complex issues is truly admirable. There are no attempts to play around with style or attempt to draw attention to Fremon Craig’s directing; she instead services the story and centers her film on character. This is added to a classic Blume trait of not judging her characters or their situations. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret acts as an observer, seeing characters who seem destined to a cliché, only to reveal a complex vulnerability underneath.
This focus on character in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret splits to follow two protagonists. Margaret herself is the compelling narrator, and Ryder Fortson does a spectacular job in the lead; her ability to non-verbally show the wonderment and terror that adolescence usually entails is endearing. In a deviation from the book, however, Fremon Craig, focuses many scenes on Margaret’s mother as well. McAdams brings about her A-game to show a woman struggling to fit in to her new role as a housewife, undergoing her own identity crisis, in a curious parallel to her daughter.
Fremon Craig is wise to know that the narrative heavy lifting was already been done by Blume’s writing; thus, staying out of the way is what sharpens this adaptation. The film treats you, sadly, to still timely discussions on religion, female identity, and puberty, which must have been earth-shattering back in 1970. Thankfully, more of Blume’s books are being adapted, with a series in the works for her famous novel “Forever…” While it’s sad that Blume’s themes are somehow still pioneering, it is a delight that her work is finally getting the attention it deserves. Fremon Craig delivers another wonderous coming-of-age film, placing Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret amongst the best of its genre.