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.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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May 2024