SMART MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ remains faithful to its source
Published 4:00 am Sunday, May 7, 2023
By Ian Omar Smart | Guest Columnist
Kelly Fremon Craig returns after her impressive debut with an adaptation of the Judy Blume Novel, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.”
Now playing at the B&B Theater inside the Vicksburg Mall, this film remains faithful to the conversations that made the book so pivotal and expands aspects of it to create a fully formed piece in its own right.
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Director Craig begins the film with a montage of summer camp, before thrusting us into the titular Margaret’s world (played excellently by Abby Ryder Fortson) where she’s being uprooted from her home in New York City to live in the suburbs of New Jersey. Her parents (played by Benny Safdie and the extraordinary Rachel McAdams) do their best to build their new lives while helping Margaret acclimate to her new surroundings.
The 12-year-old Margaret quickly makes friends, discovers affection for boys and contemplates her expectations of religion, all while marching toward the awkward phase that comes between adolescence and young adulthood.
Margaret copes with her stressful new circumstances by confiding in her most thorough listener, God. The voiceover used throughout effectively highlights how Margaret’s internal monologue manifests as a constant conversation with the Almighty.
This film may appear unremarkable, with its small stakes about being a good daughter, an involved parent or a considerate friend, but Craig infuses every moment of discovery or heartbreak with such sincerity that every action feels as major to the audience as it does to Margaret herself.
So much verisimilitude comes from the film’s pitch-perfect representation of 1970s suburbia, wonderfully constructed and efficient sequences and the fully committed performers. McAdams and Kathy Bates (playing Margaret’s Jewish grandmother) in particular bring so much heft to these performances in this relatively breezy film.
A major highlight comes from a subplot involving McAdams’s conflict with her devoutly Christian parents. Scenes involving this subplot allow McAdams to simultaneously perform her resentment toward, yet need for the approval of, her judgmental family. It’s one of many elements that subtly build the richness of this world.
This film impresses purely through its engagement with family, religion and the awkwardness of growing up. Every actor matches the material perfectly with performances that are equal parts funny and emotional.
Even this film’s conversations about religion feel honest without condemning any individual perspective. Everyone is troubled in their own ways, but this film shows how growing means learning from mistakes and doing better. Craig not only proves herself to be one of the most impressive directors today making coming-of-age films, but she has also made one of the best films of the year. See it as soon as you can.
Ian Omar Smart is a graduate of Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University with a degree in architecture. When he’s not drawing buildings, he’s probably at the movies. Smart can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.