By Megan Bianco
There are some classic novels that seem as if they might never be adapted to film. One book that took more than 50 years to appear on the big screen is Judy Blume’s 1970s children’s literature classic Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.
The main reason we’re just now getting a screen version is because Blume is, apparently, really picky with this particular book of hers. But the combination of writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig and producer James L. Brooks was enough for her to have a change of heart, and movie fans can now be thankful for that.
Are You There, God? not only lives up to expectations from fans, but it is also one of the better coming-of-age features recently.
Our protagonist is 11-year-old sixth-grader Margaret Simon (Abby Ryder Fortson), who has a typical childhood of elementary school and summer camp on the East Coast in 1970.
Her parents, non-practicing Christian Barbara (Rachel McAdams) and secularly Jewish Herb (Benny Safdie), decide to move from New York City to the New Jersey suburbs for Herb’s upgraded job offer.
Things move pretty fast as Margaret’s adolescence suddenly approaches puberty. New friends, new feelings, new questions and new scenery all for her final year before junior high.
Though we get the usual themes with adolescent-set movies, what makes It’s Me, Margaret stand out from other tales in its genre is the interfaith setting. Margaret’s parents don’t raise her with either Christianity or Judaism, feeling she should have the freedom to choose her personal beliefs “when she’s older.”
Little did they expect, their young daughter actually becomes curious about religion on her own, setting out to see which culture she identifies with the most. These scenes where Margaret learns her different faith options are the strongest in the film, as are the narration sequences in which she speaks to God like an imaginary friend with awkward phrasing and pausing, since she hasn’t been properly explained how prayer works.
Fortson delivers a strong performance in her first starring role, and the supporting cast members are charming, as well. Craig seems to be carving out a nice little niche of her own teen girl dramedies between Are You There, God? and The Edge of Seventeen (2016).
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret is a nice little time for kids, parents and grandparents of all generations.