Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is a 2023 American coming-of-age period comedy drama film directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, based on the 1970 novel of the same name by Judy Blume. The film stars Abby Ryder Forston as the title character Margaret Simon, along with Rachel McAdams, Benny Safdie, and Kathy Bates.
Sixth grader Margaret Simon and her parents move from New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey. Since one of her parents Christian with the other is Jewish, she tries to find her identity of religion. The film follows the eleven year old as she goes through puberty, experiencing the normal girl experiences like growing breasts, her first bra, boys, shaving, and getting her period, but also her exploring both of her parents’ religious upbringings. She becomes friends with several popular girls in her grade and they form a secret club called the Pre-Teen Sensations where they talk about boys, bras and menstruation. The girls axiously await their first period, preparing by buying pads. They also do exercises to increase their bust sizes: “We must, we must, must increase our bust!”
Gretchen gets her period first, which causes Margaret to worry that she is abnormal because she hasn’t started to menstruating. Margaret is jealous of her classmate Laura Danker, who started menstruating and wears a bra. She has a crush on the popular boy Philip Leroy. They kiss while playing “two minutes in the closet” during a party. Margaret’s parents plan to spend the spring vacation with Sylvia, her Jewish grandmother, in Florida. The day before the vacation, Margaret’s conservative Christian grandparents, Mary and Paul Hutchins visit. Because they disapprove of their daughter’s interfaith marriage, Mary and Paul have been estranged from Margaret’s mother for fourteen years. Margaret’s mother cancels the Florida trip. Margaret is upset but tries to be polite to her grandparents. When her grandparents mention religion, arguing starts. Margaret boils over with anger saying she doesn’t need religion or God. On the last day of school, Margaret gets her period.
This film differs a bit from the book it is based on. In the book, Margaret tells her friends why she has no religion, in the movie she is unsure and asks her mother. Barbara (Rachel McAdams) explains to her daughter that as “devout Christians.” her parents did not want a Jewish son in law, so if she married Herb, she’d no longer be their daughter. The book focuses mcuh more on Margaret’s experience, that her parents are almost empty pages. In the movie she and her parents equally focused on.
In the book Barbara is portrayed as stereotypical overworked mom, in the movie, she is warm throughtout the majority of the runtime, as she must be a safe haven and must conquer her rocky journey to realization. Barbara is a bigger presence in Margaret’s life in the film, than in the book, but that doesn’t make either version bad. McAdams is great in this role, bringing the overly-sweet and overly protective mother to life thoughout the film.
Abby Ryder Forston is a powerhouse of a star. She brings the awkward pre-teen girl to life in a way that is nostalgic and relatable, as well as funny at times. This girl is definitely going on to more big roles. Benny Safdie does a fine job as Herb Simon, a hardworking, yet awkward father, who also embarrasses Margarget. He is the typical New York City Jewish dad, without actually affiliating with the religion much. Kathy Bates is great Sylvia Simon, Marge’s Jewish grandmother. She also is a typical New York Jew, but she still follows the religion.
Overall, the film is equal parts awkward, funny, nostalgic, heart-warming, and cute. It is the perfect mother-daughter movie. It is a little too silly in some parts, much more than the book, which make the film a bit cheesy at times. Boys will probably not enjoy this one as much as girls, as it does deal with pre-teenage girl subjects throughout. Conservatives will likely object to the relgious theme, but those with an open mind will find this more engaging.
This is not the most entertaining coming-of-age movie, but it is also far from the worst. It has it’s laugh out loud moments, but some scenes are pretty slow, but that’s to expected if you ever read the book. There are uncomfortable themes throughout the movie like body-shaming, and talking about the sizes of private body parts, but that’s what makes this film relatable for any lady that was a pre-teen or teenager then as well as pre-teen and teenage girls today. Though this movie is PG-13, it is still a must see for any tween or teen. This film can also help girls and their parents discuss uncomfortable subjects. This is a cute and charming film, filled with heart and laughter. 11+ 4.5/5