As a critic, I hesitate to use the word “perfect” but it is the first adjective that comes to mind as I compose this review of Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Several generations of girls will attest to the impact and resonance of Judy Blume’s perennially popular young-adult novel of the same name. Relative newcomer Kelly Fremon Craig, with only one feature film under her belt (The Edge of Seventeen), has crafted this adaptation of the book with fidelity and tender loving care. What’s more, she has cast it with a keen eye; I daresay there isn’t a false note in the entire film.
Another newcomer, Abby Ryder Fortson, plays the heroine, who shares her candid thoughts about the challenges of oncoming puberty with God—and us in the audience. Somehow, this conceit plays easily and never seems forced or unnatural. Although we spend time with her classmates and newly-minted friends as well as her parents and grandmother (played with brio by Kathy Bates), it is Fortson who shoulders the responsibility for maintaining our interest and ability to relate. Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie are exceptionally likable as Fortson’s upwardly-mobile parents, who face challenges of their own.
But likability in itself is not the goal or the achievement here. It’s the ability to make us feel as if we are experiencing what our pre-teen heroine is going through at this crucial moment in her young life—from being the new kid in town to shopping for her first bra.
Writer-director-producer Craig is a protégé of the estimable James L. Brooks, who numbers Wes Anderson and Cameron Crowe among his discoveries. He also serves as one of the film’s producers, which may account for such imposing figures as composer Hans Zimmer and costume designer Ann Roth being on board for such a modest endeavor.
Clearly, I am not in this movie’s target demographic, but having watched and enjoyed it twice in the last week (once in my class, with a young audience) I feel justified in recommending it to anyone who wants to see an entertaining and thoroughly satisfying movie.