With lovely visuals, cute and funny scenarios and great acting, this classic book is brought to life.
The 1970 novel “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume has long been an iconic piece of literature for preteen girls. It’s a charming, accurate snapshot of what it’s like to be twelve and unsure of yourself. The film adaptation released in 2023, directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, had a lot to live up to – but it’s managed to pull it off and add even more depth to the characters.
Both the book and the film follow the character Margaret, an almost-twelve-year-old who is uprooted from her life in New York City and moves to the New Jersey suburbs. There, she meets friends and boys, and prays to God every day to start puberty.
“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” has often been boiled down to being about a girl getting her period. But both the book and film are about much more than that— sure, Margaret begs God for a grown-up body, but it’s really about Margaret finding her place in the world. Her parents decided to raise her with no religion, and Margaret struggles with her identity because of this. In general, being a preteen is a confusing period. Many of us have felt lost at many points in our lives, but for most, the ages eleven through thirteen tend to be the most awkward. The book and film convey this perfectly, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, though neither ever fall into the trap that most comedies do about adolescence. Margaret’s journey is very normal and accessible; it’s no wonder people have related to the book since its publication. However, one doesn’t have to relate to Margaret’s life for the film to be enjoyable. The story is well thought out and anyone can appreciate it.
Margaret, played by Abby Ryder Fortson, feels genuine and believable every step of the way. As a woman who struggled with adolescence myself, her portrayal is relatable, and her chemistry with the actors who play her family made everything very wholesome. The only minor flaw that can be found is occasionally the child actors feel a little stiff– but it makes sense given the awkward phases they are all in.
The film includes more scenes with Margaret’s mother Barbara, played by Rachel McAdams, which helped flesh out her character and enhance her relationship with her daughter. Barbara is a free spirit, embodying 1970s fashion and mindsets, contrasting the uptight, glamorous mothers of the suburbs. Barbara is endearing, warm, and lovable.
Margaret’s beloved grandmother is prevalent in the book and film. Brought to life by Kathy Bates, she is even sassier and funnier in the film, as we get to view her through everyone’s eyes, not just Margaret’s. Margaret’s father is slightly expanded upon, though not as much as her mother. Played by Benny Safdie, her father is gentle and has a bohemian flair.
The film is a near-perfect adaptation, which is not easy to pull off. It captures the spirit of the book while adding depth and context to many of the characters. It doesn’t hurt that it’s wrapped up in a warm blanket of nostalgia with its themes and ’70s aesthetics.