Judy Blume was everyone’s “other” mother. Well, she was when I was growing up, that is. Her stories fit perfectly into our lives, explaining to us, in a way the school hadn’t yet, what was happening with our bodies, why it was happening and if everyone was going through the same things. We didn’t want to approach our parents about certain topics or thoughts, especially concerning matters of our attraction toward the opposite sex. Judy Blume made it alright to hold that opinion. What her characters went through, we went through.
She was read by both boys and girls. We needed her voice. We needed her guidance.
Her most iconic book was “Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret.” I’m going to jump ahead of myself so that you know how great this movie is; the acting is marvelous, the characters are exactly what you were expecting, and the filmmakers didn’t, thankfully, try to contemporize the young girls and their ordeals to meet today’s challenges. That’s for another author to do.
I didn’t grow up with cell phones during the moments that Margaret and her friends went through. That added pressure would have made growing up so much harder. I can’t even imagine.
Anyway, Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) moves to New Jersey from New York City, where she’s safe and cozy, getting to see her grandmother Sylvia (Kathy Bates) all the time. She gets in her son and daughter-in-law’s business when it concerns Margaret, wanting a little version of herself, but she means well. Bates plays Sylvia perfectly. Her scenes are a delight.
Sylvia’s son and Margaret’s father, Herb (Benny Safdie), are Jewish, which Margaret’s other grandparents, who are Christian, didn’t want their daughter to have anything to do with. Margaret’s mother, Barbara (Rachel McAdams), wasn’t about to let them stop her from marrying the man she loved, so there was a mutual parting of the ways. She no longer speaks with them and they’ve never met their grandchild.
This made Margaret’s parents decide that they won’t force any religion on their daughter, allowing her to be who she wants to be and make that decision when she’s ready.
Though the film isn’t in the religious genre, throughout the film, we see Margaret go to different types of churches, trying to “find” God. She often talks to God, hence the title. One example is that she asks God to let them stay in New York, and if that can’t happen, “Please make New Jersey not be so horrible.”
Almost immediately after moving there, a girl named Nancy (Elle Graham) wants Margaret to run through the sprinklers with her… something I don’t see happen today. I rarely see children outside at all.
Sorry. Back to the review.
Nancy, the kid in every class who thinks they’re better than everyone else, tells Margaret that she’s “still flat.” She compares their chests. Nancy also shows Margaret how she practices kissing so she’ll be ready when the day comes. Nancy allows Margaret into her “secret club.” There are rules in the club that she must follow. They’re puzzling, but all seem reasonable enough to Margaret as long as the members are amicable. Nancy has them all doing an exercise so their breasts would grow like hers. They would have to say, “We must increase our busts” the whole time they perfect their movements. I remember reading all of this, the girls talking about boys, how they have to tell the group when they get their periods, and who they first kiss. Details were important and were to be journaled.
Then the day comes. A group member, Janie Loomis (Amari Alexis Price), gets her period. Through this and a few lies she has been told, Margaret asks God, “Why do I only feel you when I’m alone?” Growing up isn’t easy and Margaret has immeasurable situations occurring that make her wonder if she’ll ever be unique and special to anyone. The movie was so well done, it was as if I was reading the book. In fact, I want to reread the book NOW! Or, I’ll just watch the movie a few more times because the team who put this together knew precisely which parts were the most important to leave in, mainly when Margaret speaks to God. One of the funniest moments is when the female teacher is about to talk to the girls about menstruation. The male teacher, Mr. Benedict (Echo Kellum), slips out of the auditorium as fast as his legs could move him.
Watch this movie for the answer to how Margaret will fair. Read the book if you haven’t, or at least pass it on to your children. Judy Blume couldn’t be more memorable, more sensational for what she has always offered young people in their lives. This book, and now film, covers a few tremendous subjects, but she manages to hit them all in her other books, too. More movies, please.
Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret.
Written for the Screen and Directed by: Kelly Fremon Craig
*Based on the Book by: Judy Blume
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Abby Ryder Fortson, Benny Safdie, Elle Graham, Echo Kellum and Kathy Bates
Genres: Comedy, Drama
Produced by: James L. Brooks, p.g.a., Julie Ansell, p.g.a., Richard Sakai, Kelly Fremon Craig, p.g.a., Judy Blume, Amy Lorraine Brooks, Aldric La’auli Porter
Executive Producer: Jonathan McCoy