6.5/10 Based upon Judy Blume’s 1970 novel of the same name, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” tells the story of 11-year-old Margaret as she navigates the awkward stage in life that comes with puberty, as well as religious turmoil at home. As a former Marine in his mid 30s, a film like this is certainly not aimed at me nor was I excited to see this. That being said, while I definitely couldn’t relate to being a young girl slowly turning into a woman, I could easily relate to that awkward age where your body is changing, you want to be liked among your peers at school and you feel like your parents are often deliberately trying to ruin your life by how uncool they are. The strength of this film does go to how genuine this coming of age story feels. Margaret’s frustration with her parents moving her due to her father’s work situation, hoping to find new friends in this strange, new place, her young crush on a cute boy, trying to figure out who she is as a person and believing that getting her period will be this wonderful experience because it will make her a woman and she will be so cool once she can wear a bra were all moments that felt like billions of women over the course of history have experienced when they were younger. It makes sense why the book was such a hit back in the 1970s and I am honestly surprised it took this long for a proper adaptation to hit the big screen, despite the limited (and almost exclusively female) audience that this will appeal to. The recreation of 1970s New York City and the New Jersey suburbs, along with the production design, costume design, props and make-up all add up to an authentic looking film and I am glad they kept the 1970s setting as opposed to updating the story to modern day, which would have been a horrible decision. The acting is strong with young Abby Ryder Fortson as our lead protagonist carrying the film on her tiny teenage shoulders. Rachel McAdams as Barbara (Margaret’s mom) and Benny Safdie as Herb (her father and the most Jewish looking man on Earth) both provide strong supporting work, despite Safdie being in less of the film than McAdams. As for what didn’t work and surprised me, since I haven’t read the novel, the issues with religion brought down the film overall for me. While Margaret grows up under a “Christian” mom and a “Jewish” dad (I use quotations because neither are practicing so they can hardly be considered a Christian and a Jew but I digress) and while that conflict felt genuine, the film seems to have an anti-religious bias, particularly towards Christians, although Jews get hit too. The Jewish grandmother Sylvia (Kathy Bates) is incredibly annoying and from the very first time we as the audience meet her, she seems incredibly grating as she butts into everyone’s business and tries to force Judaism onto Margaret the further the film progresses. Even worse, the Christians in the film (Barbara’s parents) are portrayed as hateful, anti-semitic bigots who also want to force their religion onto Margaret in the latter half of the film. While this scenario very well might have been the one Blume grew up with, it doesn’t translate well to the big screen as it portrays vast groups of religious people as narrow minded, forceful, annoying and bigoted, painting with such a broad brush for quite a complicated issue with no nuance. There is a chunk of the film where Margaret’s friend group completely disappears with little explanation or warning, only for them to abruptly return near the film’s conclusion. While I loved how authentic the coming of age story felt to me (even as a male) and I could tell the females in the audience could definitely relate to virtually all of the puberty related aspects and the anxiety that comes along with those early teenage years, the religious aspects feel like a part of another story completely and the film would have been stronger to just focus more on the puberty/friendship/school aspects, as opposed to jamming in anti-religious stereotypes.

#WrittenByJewdyBlume / #ComeIntoBlume / #TheCrushNotebook / #TeenGirls / #PubescentMisery / #OnTheBasisOfSexEducation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s