I’ll be honest, the only reason I saw Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is because I was interviewing Judy Blume for the documentary about her life and career and this book played such a large role in that film. I didn’t have any specific questions about this book in particular, but I at least wanted to know the gist. And, not having all the time in the world, I thought it would be easier to just see a screening of the new movie than it would be to read the book. So, yes, basically what George Costanza did with Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (Though, to be fair, I’m not trying to convince anyone that I did read the book.)
So, you may be surprised to learn I’m probably not the target audience for Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I don’t really want to make any assumptions here, but I feel somewhat confident this is true. However, I still immensely enjoyed this movie. And it just feels like the kind of movie that is going to be a lot of people’s favorite.
Abby Ryder Fortson (who you probably know as Cassie Lang from the first two Ant-Man movies before the time jump ahead five years) plays Margaret Simon, an only child living with her parents (Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie) in New York City. Margaret is informed by her parents they are moving to New Jersey, to the chagrin of Margaret and her grandmother, Sylvia (Kathy Bates very much going for it here). Margaret doesn’t want to leave her friends, but her parents tell her the great news that with moving she will make new friends (this is true) and she will keep all her old friends (this, from experience, is a lie).*
*Granted, maybe today the way technology works it is easier to stay friends with people after moving and starting a new school. So maybe kids today do stay in touch with their friends from before the move. I am open to this being possible. But we moved three times, so I went to four different school systems, all within the state of Missouri, and I kept a grand total of zero friends after each move. Sure, you try at first, but it always ends. And since Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret takes place in the early 1970s, my original point still stands.
Margaret quickly makes friends but falls into a crowd where the new ringleader isn’t the most thoughtful of others and has a tendency to make up stories. Soon, the subject of periods comes up and each member of Margaret’s new clique vies to be first, officially becoming, in their way of looking at it, a full-on adult. Margaret is also dealing with her spiritual side, as her dad’s mother very much wants her to live her life Jewish, but her mom’s parents want her to be Christian, while her parents have told her to figure it out on her own. Or don’t. Or don’t even be religious at all, it’s up to her.
I’m glad Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret keeps its early ’70s setting. There’s a simplicity to this story that would seems so much more complicated once modern technology and social media are added in. (Plus, watching Benny Safdie wear early 1970s fashion is fun.) I was hit by how well this movie captures the dynamics of starting a new school and kind of the luck of the draw who your friends wind up being at first. Kelly Fremon Craig (who also directed The Edge of Seventeen) has made a wonderful film here, one that many people have been wanted to make for the last 50 years. And I feel fairly confident this will be a seminal film to a good portion of kids who see it and for those that this book means so much to already.
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