‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ Evaluation: Durations and Query Marks
It is 1970 and the almost-12-year-old Margaret Simon returns from summer season camp to packing containers strewn about her household’s jammed New York City residence. Why? Because she and her dad and mom are shifting to New Jersey, her grandmother blurts out earlier than her of us can ease their solely youngster into the information. And so begins the yearlong journey on the coronary heart of this pitch-perfect adaptation of the writer Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.”
The director-writer Kelly Fremon Craig’s rendering of the ebook about puberty, household and nascent spirituality provides classes in how a cherished object, when handled with tender and considerate regard, needn’t flip valuable. It doesn’t harm that Craig and the producer James L. Brooks assembled a forged that delivers the thrill and blunders ready on the fringe of childhood but additionally touches on the pangs of different kinds of rising up. Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie painting Margaret’s youthful dad and mom, Barbara and Herb. Kathy Bates is Margaret’s paternal grandmother, Sylvia, of the aforementioned blurt.
But it’s Abby Ryder Fortson who carries the day, or quite the varsity 12 months. In her face, Margaret’s glimmers of dawning self-awareness and harm ring true. From the second the soon-to-be sixth grader utters the film’s first prayer — which ends with the entreaty, “Please don’t let New Jersey be too horrible” — Fortson’s Margaret proves to be a protagonist who’s as by the way humorous as she is genuine.
Margaret’s potential to register hope and skepticism will get solely extra endearing when she opens the door to her Mockingbird Lane neighbor and new classmate, Nancy Wheeler (Elle Graham). In quick order, Nancy invitations Margaret over to her home and into her secret membership. At the Wheeler house, Margaret additionally meets a good friend of Nancy’s brother: the 14-year-old Moose (Aidan Wojtak-Hissong), who stays on the periphery of the motion, representing ever so gently the ickiness but additionally the attract of boys.
Filling out their gang of 4 are the open-faced and openhearted Janie Loomis (Amari Price) and the wavy-haired, bespectacled Gretchen Potter (Katherine Kupferer). Together they’ll evaluate notes on boys they like, chant a well-known mammary mantra, peek at a Playboy and peruse an anatomy ebook’s illustration of male genitals. But most of all, they’ll mildly obsess over (and perhaps even fib about) which one among them would be the first to menstruate.
Not horrible in any respect, the film’s Farbrook, N.J., has a halcyon glaze. As within the ebook, revealed in 1970, the problems difficult the United States on the time lie past the story’s body. (Though it’s enjoyable considering of Blume’s novel because the little sister of one other iconic ebook from the identical 12 months: the ladies’s well being handbook “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”) If the period’s edges are softened, it’s to make means for one thing in another way roiling — because the narrator of a sex-education movie will intone later within the film, “our altering our bodies.”
With subtlety, Craig breaks from the novel’s sweet-natured, first-person narration and transforms it into an total aura. “Are You There God” turns into a coming-of-age saga for 3 generations of Simon ladies. McAdams makes quietly clear Barbara Simon isn’t completely comfy in her position as suburban mother. Bates’s Sylvia can be nudged to develop her personal horizons after Margaret, her little finest good friend, strikes.
Craig additionally broadens the novel’s attain. Margaret’s trainer, Mr. Benedict, is Black. (So is Janie Loomis.) Echo Kellum is understatedly successful as the brand new however delicate sixth-grade trainer who picks up on Margaret’s response to a questionnaire — “I hate non secular holidays” — and turns it right into a yearlong task. Puberty supplies many of the film’s outright and tender comedy. But its depths are captured in Margaret’s looking for, within the notion that her No. 1 interlocutor is perhaps a God she’s not even certain exists.
If Barbara handles her daughter’s request for a bra with respectful if amused aplomb, she’s thrown by Margaret’s plan to go to “temple” with Sylvia. (Herb’s even-tempered response: “You know what received me off of temple? Going to temple.”) Barbara and Herb are nonreligious. In the novel, Margaret already is aware of the explanations for her mother’s estrangement from her personal dad and mom: They are Christian. Herb is Jewish. Never the twain shall marry. The writer-director has taken that again story and forged it right into a mother-and-daughter revelation and one of many movie’s most commanding scenes.
That puberty and a nascent religious quest would possibly start in earnest at roughly the identical time seems to be one of many film’s (and its supply’s) most radical charms.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
Rated PG-13 for themes involving sexual schooling and a few suggestive materials. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. In theaters.