By: Amanda Guarragi
Judy Blume novels have been a staple for pre-teens everywhere, and even when schools decided to pull the books from schools, that didn’t stop young girls from picking up Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. For a book to be so beloved by adults who grew up reading Blume, it’s essential reading. And now, Kelly Fremon Craig’s adaptation is essential viewing. A 12-year-old girl named Margaret (Abby Ryder Forston) moves to New Jersey and has to start at a new school. This heartfelt coming-of-age film explores the pressure of making new friends, waiting to become a woman, and choosing a religion. Fremon Craig does a wonderful job of incorporating every aspect of the book and making a well-rounded film about what it is to be a woman.
The beauty of the Blume novel is that many issues are discussed while Margaret questions everything. She has conversations with God about when she will become a woman and doesn’t know if she will be Christian or Jewish. As she talks to God, Margaret has an identity crisis in middle school. Her parents are Christian and Jewish, but they decided not to raise her in either religion. On top of feeling far behind the other girls, as all girls do when waiting to become a woman, Margaret does not have a community to call her own. She struggles with the idea that maybe someone in the universe isn’t listening in to help her because she isn’t getting what she wants as quickly as she would like. There is this perfect balance that Blume and Fremon Craig achieve in this film that has all these issues Margaret’s facing woven together.
Not only do we see Margaret struggling, but we see her mother, Barbara (Rachel McAdams), struggle with the decision she has made. She was raised a devout Christian, and her parents disowned her because she fell in love with Herb (Benny Safdie), who was Jewish. She never saw her parents again. Once she moved to New Jersey, she felt lost and even gave up her teaching position to stay home and help Margaret with the adjustment. She didn’t anticipate Margaret finding a group of friends so quickly. So Barbara feels alone in the house as she is left with her thoughts about the current state of her life. We also see her grandmother Sylvia (Kathy Bates) attempt to handle her loneliness because her family moved away. Fremon Craig and Blume subtly create a layered generational story.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is one of the best book adaptations. Abby Ryder Forston gives an endearing and heartfelt performance as Margaret and brings this character to life. Blume shows that there is no right way to be a woman. And you’re never behind. You’re simply growing at your own pace. Fremon Craig explores the fast-tracked societal pressures of becoming a woman, only for that moment to be terrifying because of what’s to come. Blume normalized menstruation, religion, and sexual questions being asked, and that’s why it is essential viewing for anyone heading into middle school. It’s incredibly emotional and will bring you back to those early days. Fortunately, when watching this as an adult, you can relate to Margaret. But also have that reassurance that even though life gets hard as a woman, it somehow gets better.