Any follower of my writing knows coming of age stories are a tough sale for me. To often the teen characters are portrayed as one note, sullen monsters that I can’t stand. I realize being a teen is tough and you go through sulky phases- I certain did- but there are soft moments in any human and that’s rarely portrayed. (Last year’s The Whale was particularly distasteful with its supremely unpleasant teen character.) So you can imagine I went into the latest teen drama Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret with some hesitation but fortunately I found a beautiful and authentic story that may be close to a perfect film.
…Margaret is of course based on the landmark novel by Judy Blume and it tells the story of the titular Margaret who is 11 and struggling to fit in with her new suburban New Jersey home and all the changes going on with her body and peer group. She also has started asking questions about what she believes and trying out different faiths and asking God for help in her various travails.
There are so many things I loved about this film. First off Abby Ryder Fortson is fantastic as Margaret. Again, she’s warm and authentic and a joy to watch as she wades through the highs and lows of being 11. I also loved Benny Safdie and Rachel McAdams as her parents and all the young actors in her peer group are fantastic.
The highlight, however, is Kathy Bates as her Grandma Sylvia. I honestly became emotional whenever she is on screen because she reminds me so much of my Grandma who I miss dearly.
I miss hanging out with my Grandma and chatting about life. I miss going shopping together and seeing the Rockettes which she was a huge fan of. The dynamic between Margaret and Sylvia is so perfectly captured I bet most anyone will be able to relate to it on one level or another.
There’s also a lot of humor in the film that keeps it from feeling too heavy. Margaret and her friends exploring bras and maxi pads is sweet and very funny as are her various crushes and observations about the world around her.
I guess if I am going to nitpick a section where her maternal grandparents come for a visit didn’t have the nuance of the rest of the film. I don’t believe these people trying to make amends with their daughter would tell Margaret to go to Sunday School on the first dinner they have together. That could have been handled better.
Other than that, there’s nothing I would change about Are you There God? It’s Me, Margaret. The production design and costuming capturing the 70s is excellent. The acting is all top notch. It’s a heartwarming, authentic, wonderful depiction of adolescence and the life of a true American family.
10 out of 10
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