Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret is just as good as the brilliant book – film review
The poster for this new coming-of-age drama boasts that it is “based on the book loved by millions.” For once, film publicity isn’t exaggerating. Judy Blume’s 1970 novel Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret became a popular choice for American adolescents in the era, and its adaptation comes with the seal of approval from the author.
Blume actually went one further than simply approving of this adaptation, claiming it is better than the book it’s based on. That can’t have been said many times by authors before. Set in the 70s, the film looks at a year in the life of Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson), an 11 year old whose life is upended by the announcement that her family will be moving from New York to the suburbs of New Jersey.
She struggles with settling into the new school and friends, just as she begins to wrestle with the early stages of puberty. With the support of her mother (Rachel McAdams), new peers, and an unusual relationship with God, she attempts to make sense of these new challenges. Director Kelly Fremon Craig captured the latter teenage years perfectly in 2016’s overlooked comedy The Edge of Seventeen.
As such, she is very well suited to document the warm but frank approach Blume had in her novel, especially with subjects like first periods and sexuality. The movie captures how these everyday changes and struggles can feel like huge dramas at certain times in our lives. It’s one of the few films you’ll see this year that doesn’t need melodrama to feel constantly intriguing. These are ordinary problems, faced by ordinary people, in a story that makes them relatable for anyone at home watching regardless of whether they’ve been through the experience themselves or not.
Abby Ryder Fortson is best known to audiences as Cassie Lang in the first two Ant-Man films. Away from a blockbuster stage, she’s allowed to showcase talents that make her more than a match for established stars like McAdams, who has a lot more to do here as Margaret’s mother than was originally written in the book. Kathy Bates is a brilliant as ever as the overbearing but well-intentioned grandmother, but it’s the likeable exploits of Fortson and her young co-star Elle Graham, playing Margaret’s friend Nancy, who steal the show.
Warm and comforting, Are You There God… is a rare film that lives up to the enormous reputation of its source material. For the millions who held the novel dear to their heart, it will be a prayer answered.
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret is in cinemas now
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