Review: Growing pains painfully funny in ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.’

“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” currently has a remarkable 99% approval rating among critics and a 94% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes.

Movie poster for "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret."
"Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret." is the feature film adaptation of Judy Blume's novel of the same name. The coming-of-age dramedy is playing at Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter.
Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER — “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” was the novel answer to adolescents everywhere who had questions about puberty but were too embarrassed to ask.

Author Judy Blume’s young adult novel was first published in 1970. But it’s finally getting the big-screen treatment with a feature film adaptation of her classic book now in movie theaters.

Set in the time period the book first came out, the coming-of-age dramedy stars Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret Simon, a sixth grader struggling to fit in with her peers after her family moves from a New York City apartment to a New Jersey suburb in the 1970s.

Rounding out the cast is Rachel McAdams as the girl’s mother, who is now a stay-at-home mom, and Kathy Bates as the paternal grandmother. McAdams’ character is also trying to adapt to challenging and changing times associated with the family’s relocation just like her daughter.

The Oscar-nominated McAdams is perhaps best known for her role in the feature film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ tear-jerker “The Notebook." Bates’ long career includes a star-making role in Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “Misery,” which netted her an Oscar.


Fortson as the titular character in Blume’s seminal novel shines with her natural delivery of lines and immensely relatable insecurities about puberty and associated topics.

As one of only two men in the audience at the showing I was at, the giggles from the overwhelmingly female audience could be heard as they watched the motion picture, which reminded me of the ABC TV series “The Wonder Years” starring Fred Savage.

Let’s face it, growing up is not easy and when a girl's (or a boy’s) body starts changing, those years can be especially nerve-wracking in an adolescent’s life, filled with anxiety, self-doubt, fear, uncertainty and other negative emotions that can only hopefully seem funny in retrospect.

Director Kelly Fremon Craig handles the subject matter with a deft touch and Blume was listed as one of the producers of the two-hour film that is rated PG-13 for its frank discussion of sexuality. Craig wrote and directed the coming-of-age dramedy “The Edge of Seventeen.”

Thrown into the mix of “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” is a subplot involving the interfaith marriage of the girl’s parents. The father is Jewish and the mother is Christian, so her parents disapproved of the union and have never met their granddaughter.

Bates’ character attempts to convert the child to Judaism while the mother’s estranged parents later attempt to have the girl baptized. The bickering grandparents argue over the girl’s soul or salvation and it seeds further doubt in the soon-to-be young woman’s mind about identity.

“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” currently has a remarkable 99% approval rating among critics and a 94% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.

The consensus from the critics at "Effervescent and refreshingly frank about the travails of puberty, this long-awaited adaptation does full justice to Judy Blume's seminal novel."


FRANK LEE is the movie columnist for the Brainerd Dispatch. He may be reached at 218-631-6470 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The weekly newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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