Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
dir-scr Kelly Fremon Craig
prd James L Brooks, Julie Ansell, Richard Saka, Kelly Fremon Craig, Judy Blume
with Rachel McAdams, Abby Ryder Fortson, Kathy Bates, Benny Safdie, Elle Graham, Echo Kellum, Amari Alexis Price, Katherine Kupferer, Isol Young, Aidan Wojtak-Hissong, Zack Brooks, Kate MacCluggage
release US 28.Apr.23,
UK 19.May.23
23/US Lionsgate 1h46

mcadams bates safdie

Is it streaming?

kupferer, graham, price and fortson
Judy Blume's 1970 young-adult novel is beloved for how it unflinchingly takes on religious and sexual themes. Skilfully adapted by Kelly Fremon Craig, the film also has an earthy sense of humour and characters who are far more complex than the usual stereotypes. Without pushing a message, momentous topics are explored through the eyes of a young teen, which offers connections for audiences of all ages and genders.
In 1970, 12-year-old Margaret (Fortson) is horrified that her family is moving from New York City to New Jersey, far from her beloved grandmother Sylvia (Bates), so she begins to pray for a miracle. Her concept of God isn't religious, because her Christian-raised mother Barbara (McAdams) and Jewish dad Herb (Safdie) are allowing her to choose her path. So while new friendship with Nancy (Graham) sparks impatience about puberty, Margaret is also exploring what kind of faith she might have. And her new teacher Mr Benedict (Kellum) assigns her to write an essay about it.
Structured anecdotally, the film consists of set-pieces that use comedy and drama to trigger nostalgia for audience members. We see what's going on more clearly than Margaret does, including how in her class the cool boy (Brooks) is a jerk and the mature girl (Young) needs a friend. Awkward conversations about sex bristle with wit that the characters often miss. By contrast, grown-up ideas about religion are seen as empty through Margaret's astute point-of-view.

Fortson is engaging as an alert preteen impatient for the next stage of her life to begin. She's wonderfully present in each scene, allowing the viewer to feel each emotion. She also generates singular chemistry with each of her costars. McAdams has a loose charm that brings Barbara's own journey to vivid life, while Bates is having a ball as the hilariously presumptive Sylvia. Of the other kids, Graham is a standout as Nancy, a perky kid who's perhaps on her way to becoming a mean girl.

Because these are issues everyone has to grapple with along the way, the film will find distinct resonance for each person watching it. Younger viewers may be laughing at jokes they think they understand, but clearly don't, while older ones will be reminded that growing up means coming to terms with things that can't be answered simplistically. So in its open-handed approach to religion and puberty, Blume's story will entertain and inspire pretty much everyone who sees it.

cert pg themes, language 14.May.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall