ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT”S ME, MARGARET
(director/writer: Kelly Fremon Craig; screenwriter: based on the book by Judy Blume; cinematographer: Tim Ives; editors: Oona Flaherty/Nick Moore; music: Hans Zimmer; cast: Kathy Bates (Sylvia Simon), Abby Ryder Fortson (Margaret Simon), Rachel McAdams (Barbara Simon), Benny Safdie (Herb Simon), Elle Graham (Nancy Wheeler), Amarie Price (Janie Loomis), Katherine Kupferer (Gretchen Potter), Jecoby Swain (Freddy),Mia Dillon (Mary), Gary Houston (Paul Hutchins); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Richard Sakai/Julie Ansell/James L. Brooks/Kelly Fremon Craig/Judy Blume/Amy Brooks/Aldric La’Auli Porter; Lionsgate; 2023)
“Heartfelt coming-of-age film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The heartfelt coming-of-age film is based on the Judy Blume YA beloved classic novel from 1970. Writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig (“The Edge of Seventeen”) adequately tells the story of the 11-year-old Margaret Simon (Abby Ryder Fortson) as she sees things her way whether right or wrong, and bravely questions timeless subjects faced by all female adolescents such as peer pressure, crushes, menstruation, faith. The filmmaker refuses to tidy things up to make it a PC film, as Margaret just tells things as she sees it and the film, to its credit, does not clean things up after her.
In the 1970s, Margaret Simon relocates from New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey with her parents, Barbara (Rachel McAdams) and Herb (Benny Safdie). She’s now far from her beloved kindly Jewish grandma, Sylvia (Kathy Bates). At her new middle school, she befriends Nancy Wheeler (Elle Graham), Janie Loomis (Amari Price) and Gretchen Potter (Katherine Kupferer), and hangs out with her new crew as they engage in girl talk and activities.
A chunk of the film tells of how the kid’s mom reconciles that she became estranged from her Evangelical parents, Mary (Mia Dillon) and Paul Hutchins (Gary Houston), because she married a Jewish man. Barbara doesn’t force Margaret to choose a religion yet, letting her take her own time to make this important decision. There’s a moving scene where the nice mom breaks down in tears as she recalls her traumatic past and Margaret tries to console her.
Subplots are thrown in that don’t always work or are needed One showing Margaret in a bad light acting rotten to a classmate. Another of her dad hurting his hand on the lawnmower.
It’s an uneven film that is at times winsome with its clever wit, while at other times heavy-handed as it tries to blend in all the subplots. But Margaret is an uplifting figure, and the simple film wins hearts with its earnestness and ability to reach out to a diverse audience.
REVIEWED ON 4/25/2023 GRADE: B