This warm story of adolescence will have you grinning and laughing the entire time.
Moments into Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., it’s difficult not to feel the movie’s warm embrace. While you may have an idea of where things could go through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl in this simple story, the journey is still as satisfying and hilarious as you could imagine. Making for one of the best movies of the year so far, it’s a story many people can relate to in some form or fashion. In fact, you might come away learning a thing or two you thought you already knew but didn’t know.
Based on the bestselling novel by Judy Blume, Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) and her family move from New York City to New Jersey after her dad (Benny Safdie) accepts a promotion. While Margaret does not want to leave the city and her loving grandmother (Kathy Bates), they move right when she starts sixth grade and while her mother (Rachel McAdams) becomes a housewife. We watch as Maragret becomes a woman as she goes through the school year trying to grasp what exactly there is to religion aside from asking God for things.
As you would expect, this story of womanhood covers all the ups and downs one would encounter in middle school. We see the hilarity and quieter moments from bodies changing, friends getting together to talk about clubs, and discovering adult issues to believing unsourced rumors about other classmates, and crushing on the opposite sex. Let’s not forget the title of the movie, which points to Margaret asking God for various things throughout the school year. Add in the drama one might have with their parents and you get the picture here. There are also a few moments with just Margaret’s parents that are just as entertaining. Many of these moments either will result in laughs or make you wince as you cringe at what plays out.
As stated previously, this story is a simple one. But in the hands of director Kelly Fremon Craig, who made the outstanding The Edge of Seventeen back in 2016, it is elevated to keep you invested in its characters and the drama unfolding throughout its 100-minute runtime. It’s hard not to like Margaret in most scenarios here, but the movie provides more than a handful of good lessons families can take home with them when the credits roll. A good example of this was as the movie played out at my press screening earlier this week, I noticed a parent in front of me kept pointing out various things to her child throughout the movie, whispering about specific instances; I can only imagine what that conversation was like. But I have no doubt it was a valuable one.
Margaret’s cast makes for one of the best group of characters in a movie so far this year, thanks in large part to Abby Ryder Fortson, who plays the teenager in the title role. She brings more than enough charm to the part and will win you over. The adults surrounding Margaret are all great, including Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie, who play her parents. But it’s Kathy Bates, still going strong at 74, who stands out amongst the adults as the grandmother we can all point to and say, “She’s just like mine!”
Films like Margaret are a rare breed in today’s theatrical moviegoing landscape (on top of being a family movie, which is creeping towards rare territory as well). But it’s a reminder of how simple stories can create some of the best movies that will have an impact on its viewers. That’s especially true for this dramedy, which is a must-see for the whole family, especially if you have kids around the same age as the film’s titular star.