Full disclosure: I’ve never read Judy Blume’s middle grade novel, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” nor have I ever been a girl/woman.
With that out of the way, I would like to say I got a free ticket to see, a pre-screening of the new film produced by Lionsgate, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” starring Rachel McAdams, Abby Ryder Fortson, Elle Graham, Benny Safdie, and Kathy Bates. The film’s screenwriter and directed is Kelly Fremon Craig (The Edge of Seventeen), and it was produced by Gracie Films’ Academy Award® winner James L. Brooks.
Based on the trailer, it was obvious that the movie is a comedy and coming-of-age story of a pre-teen, the 12-year old Margaret (played by Abby Ryder Fortson), who moves out of the city to the suburbs in New Jersey. She has new friends, goes to a new school, at a time in young girls’ lives when there are a lot of changes going on.
The acting in the film was stupendous! I loved Abby Ryder Fortson’s portrayal of Margaret. The star-studded cast shined in this film.
Gags about boys, their changing bodies, and getting their period is a constant theme throughout. As a father of a middle schooler, I could relate to this portion of the story, not as someone who has been through it, but as a parent helping his daughter in any way I possibly can. The gags about the parents include a new “stay-at-home” mom who decides to volunteer for too many PTA committees, (not) deciding on furnishings for the new house, and an overbearing mother left behind in the city.
The other side of the coin on this film is Margaret’s “relationship” with God. A large portion of this film is a commentary on religion in America. Margaret prays to God about all of the changes going on in life, but God doesn’t have a religion. Margaret comes from a family with a Jewish dad and a Christian mom, but they aren’t religious. They don’t go to any church or synagogue, but it is up to Margaret to decide on her own what she believes.
The movie’s counterplot is concerned with her religious experiences at a synagogue, a “Black” church, a “White” church, and at a Catholic church. Religion is also a point of contention between her parents, her and her parents, and her extended family. Again, I haven’t read the book, but based on the title it seems like God and religion are central themes in the source material as well.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot and give the movie away, but I think it sends the wrong message about God, and what a relationship with God looks like.
Ultimately, I think the film portrays a healthy view of puberty and adolescence, but it gives me pause with its anti-religious stance. It doesn’t differentiate between one religion or another. There were some “questions” that would likely come out of watching the film together as a family though that would be worthwhile to discuss. Maybe talking about those differing views would outweigh the negative portrayal of corporate worship in the film.
I would recommend the film to adults. But, I think it is important to screen the film first before inviting your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews to watching it. The film is targeted to younger tween girl ages, and it would probably not appeal to boys. There is some obvious mature content discussed that wouldn’t be appropriate for girls under ten years old in my opinion. Topics like menstruation, puberty, developing breasts, pads, bras, body image, and the girls even look at a Playboy magazine as a standard to measure their own development. There is a birthday party scene where the unsupervised kids play games like spin the bottle and 2 minutes in heaven. For me personally, I would not let my 12-year-old see the film until she was a bit older, maybe 13 or 14.
This book was super popular when I was a young girl. I loved it. But I wouldn’t trust the movie to be the same .
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I read the book when I was about twelve and loved it. I’m curious to see the movie.
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