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April 28, 2023 / Cineplex Pictures

Starring: Abby Ryder Fortson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Benny Safdie

Directed By: Kelly Fremon Craig

Raised by a Christian mother (Rachel McAdams) and a Jewish father (Benny Safdie), 11-year-old Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) has to deal with navigating adolescence and finding new friends when they move from the city to the suburbs.

She makes a new friend named Nancy (Elle Graham), who invites her to join her secret club, but then finds out that if she wants to be a member, she has to wear a bra. Margaret works up her courage to ask her mother for one, only to be asked if she really needs one.

Written By Darren

Rating 4.5 out of 5

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is a truly outstanding coming of age film that brings to life Judy Blume’s timeless novel with the excellent performances of Abby Ryder Forston and Rachel McAdams, making for one of the best films of the year so far.

Originally published back in 1970, Judy Blume’s novel has truly stood the test of time. While it has been challenged for its religious themes and exploration of puberty, it has quickly become one of Blume’s most notable pieces of works that helped make her an author that has impacted generations of young readers. Even though times have changed and our world is far more sophisticated than 1970s New Jersey, Blume’s story is still as relevant today and under the direction of acclaimed director Kelly Fremon Craig, makes for one crowd pleasing and truly fantastic cinematic event.

Margaret’s parents have informed her that they are leaving New York City, moving to the suburbs of New Jersey after her father gets a promotion at work. Faced with starting a new school, making new friends, and puberty, Margaret decides to explore her religious identity. Being raised by a Christian mother and Jewish father who on purpose never exposed Margaret to their religions, Margaret begins exploring both religions while preparing herself for all the changes her body is about to go through, hoping that this will help her discover her place in the world as she begins to grow into a young woman.

Craig most recently wrote and directed the critically acclaimed The Edge of Seventeen, and once again she explores the coming of age genre as she adapts Blume’s bestselling novel. Both writing the screenplay and directing the film; you can feel Craig’s artistic touch guiding the film throughout. Through her adaptation of Blume’s novel, Craig finds an authentic voice of a young girl dealing with uncertainty over her body changing, exploring religion and seeing the effect it has on individuals for the first time, all while trying to group up and break free of childhood. Her writing balances the humour and childhood innocence of the story, such as the young girls chanting and exercising to help their breasts grow, with the more tender and emotional moments as Margaret learns first hand the negative effects religion has had on her family. The result is an emotionally resonant and moving film that will tug on your heartstrings one second, while leaving you on a high the next from pure joy, entertainment and laughter. Balancing all of the different aspects of the story is no easy task, but Craig makes it seem like child’s play with her direction as she never loses grasp of the childhood perspective that frames the portrayal of the mature themes of the film, resulting in what is bound to be a classic for the coming of age genre.

Tackling religion is a delicate task in film, but the subject matter is handled incredibly well here. Much like Margaret exploring religion for the first time, the film maintains a neutral view on Christianity and Judaism, merely presenting the audience with facts about each religion. Margaret talks to God throughout the film, as a way of coping with everything she is experiencing, providing an insightful and often hilarious narration to guide the film. The screenplay does spend a good amount of time showing the effects that religious differences have had on Margaret’s family, helping to build the emotional weight of the story while still maintaining its neutral view on religion. Instead, grounding the topic in the emotions and motivations of the characters helps create for one of the most heartbreaking moments of the film.

Leading the film is Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret, giving an absolutely captivating and phenomenal lead performance that is bound to make her a star. Capturing all of the uncertainty of a young girl on the edge of adolescence and the bubbling and inquisitive nature of her character, Fortson lights up the entire film. With her younger costars, she is merely one of the kids and revels in the fun moments of the film, but when paired with her older co stars or tasked a more dramatic moment, Fortson taps into an understanding of her character that makes you forget you are watching a performance, as Margaret is fully alive on screen. By doing so, Fortson immediately bonds you to Margaret and takes you on this beautiful journey and allows you to feel every high and low for her character throughout the film.

Kathy Bates stars as Margaret’s grandmother Syvlia, who while possessing a massive heart is an absolute spitfire. It’s a hilarious and great supporting performance from Bates, as is Benny Safdie as Margaret’s father Herb, though he is not in a lot of the film. The young actors portraying Margaret’s friends are energetic, capturing that childhood excitement, but it is Rachel McAdams who is the standout of the supporting cast. McAdams stars as Margaret’s mother Barbara, who is struggling trying to adapt to her new life. Her story parallels Margaret, instead of misguided teenage girls it is PTA mothers trying to fill their lives with business, and McAdams makes it heartbreakingly beautiful. You can see her character struggling to fulfill her new role, having been an artist and working prior to the move, and combined with the family drama surrounding her marriage, creates a very rich role for McAdams, which she excels in. Every moment she is on screen, whether it be a scene with Fortson as the two of them create this touching mother-daughter relationship, or a scene between the adult characters where the more adult drama takes over, McAdams excels and gives the best performance we have seen from her in years.

Being set in 1970, the film has lots of time for the costumes and production design to shine, recreating 1970s suburbia on screen. Though, it is in the music where the film taps most into the time setting. The soundtrack selections are excellent, featuring many hits of the time era from the likes of Cat Stevens, Shocking Blue and many more, creating an energetic and wonderful musical journey of hits you know and love. But, it is Hans Zimmer’s musical store that is the standout of the music. Yes, Zimmer who creates the most epic and action heavy score of all times scored this sweet coming of age tale. Instantly, you can see the brilliance in his playful score that captures childhood independence and curiosity with its themes, while varying them for the more dramatic moments to add weight to the events you are seeing on screen. It’s yet another score from one of cinema’s greatest maestros, one that is no doubt going to be overlooked given his filmography, but is yet another work of art from Zimmer.

Given the talent of Kelly Fremon Craig, it comes as no surprise that Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is an excellent coming of age tale, though the cast truly pushes the film to the next level and helps make one of the best films of the year so far! Anchored by a career-making performance from Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret and an outstanding supporting turn from Rachel McAdams, Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret makes its big screen debut with a film full of heart, love, laughter and graceful handling of complex themes that will have audiences falling in love with this story all over again.

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