Monday, August 28, 2023

Movie Monday: Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret.

Back in July, while my husband was in his hometown in Oklahoma golfing with his two closest high school friends, I invited my own childhood friend, Michelle, to visit for the weekend. We talked nonstop and had a great time being back together. In the evening, we thoroughly enjoyed revisiting our shared childhood with the movie adaptation of Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, that coming-of-age classic novel by Judy Blume for every girl born after 1950.

In case you somehow missed this childhood rite of passage, as the story opens in 1970, eleven-year-old Margaret (played by Abby Ryder Fortson) is devastated to come home from summer camp to find out she and her parents are moving from their New York City apartment to a home in New Jersey. Margaret's Jewish grandmother, Silvia (played by Kathy Bates), is even more upset because she and Margaret are close and spend a lot of time together. As her dad, played by Benny Safdie, and her mom, played by Rachel McAdams, unpack boxes in their new suburban home, Margaret begins to meet some of the kids her age in the neighborhood. Nancy, played by Elle Graham, is a little overwhelming at first, but she's very welcoming to Margaret, saying she can be the fourth in their group of best friends, and Margaret is both impressed and intimidated by Nancy's confidence and sophistication. As Margaret's mom, who is an artist, struggles to fit in with the other suburban mothers, Margaret experiences all kinds of firsts--first bra, first boy-girl party, first kiss, first period--along with the exciting and frightening onset of adolescence. She visits her beloved grandma in New York, and she struggles to figure out what religion she wants to be (her mom was brought up Christian, so they say it is Margaret's decision). All of these classic coming-of-age moments are set against the nostalgic backdrop of 1970's suburbia.

This novel was first published in 1960, and it seems like Judy Blume made the right decision to wait until now for a film adaptation. Director Kelly Fremon Craig does an outstanding job of bringing this beloved icon of adolescence to the screen. The 1970's fashions, furnishings, hairdo's, music, and sets bring that era to Technicolor life with great authenticity. It's the perfect backdrop for Margaret's struggles with growing up, which girls today can still relate to. The cast is wonderful, with young Abby creating a Margaret who is exactly as we imagined. Rachel McAdams is excellent as a mom struggling to fit in with the other parents (I don't recall if that was a part of novel, but it works perfectly here, with all us grown-ups watching the film), and Kathy Bates is her usual fabulous self as Grandma Sylvia. The adaptation is faithful to the original book (as best as I remember, anyway), including the important focus on Margaret's struggles with religion, as she talks to God in her own way. My friend and I were delighted with this nostalgic step back in time and recreation of one of our favorite books. It was fun, joyful, funny, and worth the decades-long wait!

I highly recommend inviting your childhood best friend over to watch this movie--or calling her up to watch at the same time while on the phone.

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. is currently available to rent on Amazon and several other streaming services.

Michelle and I as kids in 1971, and last month when she came to visit:


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