Rob Reviews "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret."
Judy Blume is one of those authors that helped define a generation; specifically mine of Generation X. Her books appealed to all of us, which was rare for someone whose writing dealt with difficult topics for its time. It is argued that her most famous work was Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Although for most its subject matter is tame now, its themes of dealing with female adolescence and all of the things that came with it (there IS a version she did for boys called Then Again, Maybe I Won’t) really make it the O.G. of coming-of-age stories that to this day has not really been challenged for that title.
Given that it was written in 1970, we have gotten to the point in our history where fans of Generation X’s iconic moments (whether part of us or not) are taking those moments on in order to make sure their impact and memory never die. In this case, Kelly Fremon Craig stays to what plays to her writing and directing strengths from The Edge of Seventeen by adapting Blume’s book masterfully by capturing its essence and really only leaving out or changing details that do not take away from the overall themes of the story in order for it to connect in the way that it deserves. Capturing this story from the standpoints of three different generations while focusing on Margaret’s story is truly handled well, which also helps those not of the pre-teen set have something to identify with as well. I truly appreciated the fact that Craig did not try to update the material or do the “look, were in the ‘70s” thing because given when the story takes place, there are details that make it very necessary to stay within the time capsule that the book is told in.
Abby Rider Fortson plays Margaret and absolutely NAILS it. Her portrayal of a girl over a year of her sixth-grade life who has to move from New York to New Jersey leaving her paternal grandmother behind and starting over with her parents in what is the most crucial part of her young adult development is spot-on to Blume’s spirit of the character with innocence and curiosity that makes the story come to life perfectly. Kathy Bates also continues to show why she is one of the all-time greats as Sylvia, the grandmother who wants the best for her while at the same time having a bit of her own agenda because of Margaret’s mixed religion family (her devoutly Christian maternal grandparents do NOT approve of her paternal Jewish side, so Margaret’s parents don’t want her to claim either until she is old enough to do so), while Rachel McAdams (who is now at a point where she is playing maternal roles, which made me break a hip when I typed that) and Benny Safdie give great chemistry off both with Fortson with each other forming a family that is both believable and identifiable. Blume herself has a cameo as well, so keep an eye out for one of two dog-walkers at one point.
There is also a great young cast to accompany Margaret on her journey to womanhood with Elle Graham playing Nancy Wheeler (in case you wondered where the character name in Stranger Things came from), Amari Alexis Price as Janie Loomis, and Katherine Mallen Kupferer as Gretchen Potter. The four of them and their “secret society” all fit like they are already lifelong friends with all of the things that come with that at eleven or twelve years old. It would have been nice to see a bit more of their teacher’s role in their lives in Echo Kellum, but I also understand the decision to make it more about the kids and what they are dealing with, keeping the adult interference to a minimum.
With a film like Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, it is important to deal with its themes head-on in the same fearless manner that the source material is, and since this film has Blume’s personal blessing, that is a good thing. I was thoroughly impressed with this film and would encourage families to all see this together or at a minimum be a mother-daughter day out as this film can really help kickstart or continue a conversation that is so important in the development of young lives that gets more and more difficult to do with each generation given the amount of true AND false information that kids can get from the world around them.