Review: ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ is a Pleasant Surprise

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    Review: ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ is a Pleasant Surprise

    by Manuel São Bento
    December 22, 2023

    Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret Review

    Kelly Fremon Craig’s coming-of-age comedy adaptation Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret had long been lodged in my film viewing schedule, yet somehow managed to elude me when it first opened (back in April 2023), ultimately succumbing to the abyss of missed watches. The noticeable awards season buzz surrounding Rachel McAdams’ performance, coupled with a multitude of overwhelmingly positive opinions, compelled me to place it as a top priority viewing before the year’s end. Gratitude is owed to everyone who shared wonderful feedback, for this turned out to be one of the most pleasantly surprising movies of 2023.

    Actually, this should be nowhere near close to a surprise for me, having in mind that Kelly Fremon Craig is also responsible for one of my favorites of 2016, The Edge of Seventeen, which at the time I considered to be one of the best coming-of-age stories of its decade. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret warrants that same proclamation, as it’s a remarkably layered study of the intricate facets of a 11-year-old girl’s life. The narrative dives deep into the challenges of adolescence, covering a myriad of themes with such authenticity and depth that it’s able to resonate with viewers of all ages & all genders. From puberty and the complexities of evolving womanhood to the impact of peer pressure and the nuanced exploration of religious beliefs, the filmmaker fearlessly addresses the multifaceted journey of the young protagonist.

    Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, adapted from Judy Blume’s book, refuses to merely skim the surface of any theme related to the main character’s arc. Instead, it brilliantly weaves together the threads of her life, unraveling the sophistication of a girl forced to navigate the tumultuous waters of change when pulled away to live a new city. The script (adapted by Kelly Fremon Craig), magnificently written, doesn’t shy away from addressing sensitive subjects. It boldly tackles issues surrounding puberty, showcasing the emotional and physical changes that come with it. Fremon Craig also bravely delves into the weight of peer pressure, illustrating how it permeates every aspect of a young girl’s life, from friendships to personal opinions.

    One of the standout achievements in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is its study of religion and the dangerous importance it carries in some families. Just like with every other theme, the narrative doesn’t tiptoe around the topic but instead confronts it head-on, offering an unfiltered look at the protagonist’s struggle with her own beliefs and the expectations placed upon her due to her family’s adherence to religion. This candid approach contributes to the film’s realism, as it mirrors the real-life dilemmas many adolescents face when trying to reconcile personal convictions with familial or societal expectations.

    Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret Review

    At the core of this remarkable story are the stellar performances delivered by Abby Ryder Fortson (from “Togetherness”, Ant-Man and the Wasp, A Dog’s Journey) and the Academy Award-nominated Rachel McAdams. Both actresses bring charming nuance to their roles, elevating the characters beyond formulaic stereotypes. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, although dealing with themes that could easily lead to generic portrayals, benefits immensely from the cast’s ability to infuse their roles with complete relatability. McAdams’ interpretation deserves awards buzz, as does the detailed script filled with insightful dialogue.

    The focus on the young girl’s journey at this time of her life is laser-sharp, ensuring an intimate approach to her experiences. I do wish for some additional dialogue between the parents about the mother’s sacrifice of giving up her dream of teaching art to support the family, though. It’s the only storyline that feels too light and too easily resolved, as it could have added an extra layer of depth to the overall narrative. Nevertheless, the decision to keep the focus primarily on the protagonist doesn’t diminish the film’s impact; rather, it emphasizes the filmmakers’ commitment to the core matters of adolescence and self-discovery.

    The visual storytelling employed skillfully captures the dynamic nuances of the characters and the essence of the story. The adequate pacing allows the audience to absorb each moment, ensuring that Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret doesn’t rush through any of the important plot points and character moments but rather lets them unfold organically. Additionally, the score from none other than Hans Zimmer – yes, you read that right – complements the emotional beats of the narrative, enhancing the viewer’s connection to the characters and their evolving experiences. Finally, the clever song choices throughout serve as a rich backdrop, effectively underscoring the highs and lows of the coming-of-age journey.

    Final Thoughts

    Kelly Fremon Craig’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret stands out as a triumph in the coming-of-age subgenre. Its refusal to shy away from sensitive subject matters, coupled with brilliant performances from the lead cast, and a meticulously crafted script, results in a story that not only entertains with astute humor but also resonates on a deeply personal level. It’s a testament to talented filmmaker Kelly Fremon Craig’s commitment to authenticity and storytelling that transcends the boundaries of age and gender. A poignant, relatable portrayal of the complexities of adolescence, leaving a lasting impact on its audience.

    Manuel’s Rating: A-
    Follow Manuel on Twitter – @msbreviews / Or Letterboxd – @msbreviews

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