• Sun. Apr 21st, 2024


ByTaylor T Carlson

Apr 20, 2023

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET is directed by Kelly Fremon Craig. The film stars Abby Ryder Fortson, Rachel McAdams, Benny Sadfie, and Kathy Bates. It’s based on the 1970 novel by Judy Blume.

Margaret Simon has spent all of her 11 years living in New York City, but is shocked after returning from summer camp to learn that she and her family are moving to the suburbs of New Jersey due to her father’s recent promotion. Dreading the move, she finds herself encountering many new and interesting people and situations, while also finding herself struggling to find her identity in the world, due in no small part to her having a Jewish father and a Christian mother. Through it all, Margaret faces growing pains and growing uncertainties, questioning her faith as life continues to come at her full force.

When I was a child attending school, there were no shortage of children’s books to choose from. The name Judy Blume appeared on a great many of them. What I wasn’t aware of as a child, and honestly, not even until recently, was that Blume had written several books that were for adolescent and adult readers. ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET was first released in 1970 by Blume as a middle-grade novel. Despite its widespread critical acclaim, the book has come under fire and landed on banned books list for its blunt and open discussions of mature topics, including menstruation and religion. I confess that I’ve never read the original novel (in my middle school years I was more into GOOSEBUMPS and ANIMORPHS), but the premise of the novel sounded particularly interesting, and hearing that there would be a feature film adaptation (retaining the original 1970 setting no less) got this moviegoer’s attention.

MARGARET is a strong film for all the reasons Blume’s novel is. It’s an unflinching story that looks at adolescent years through the eyes of a young girl, retaining the original story’s frank discussions and bluntness when it comes to what were once considered to be quite taboo topics in literature for young people. Production is fantastic, transporting the viewer back to an era before smartphones reigned supreme, and the casting is equally fantastic, including Abby Ryder Fortson’s leading role as Margaret Simon. While the movie admittedly bites off a few more characters and subplots than it can chew, it’s a fantastic movie overall with many comedic and dramatic moments throughout.

For this moviegoer, one of the greatest strengths of MARGARET is that the film keeps the story in the original 1970 setting. It would’ve been easy and tempting to simply transpose this tale into the modern day (and honestly, a lot of the themes would’ve still been relevant and worked under these conditions). But the production, which includes the likes of producer James L. Brooks and director Kelly Fremon Craig, smartly doesn’t take shortcuts, adhering to Blume’s original tale in its proper time period. The period detail, from fashions and cars to the soundtrack of retro tunes that fits the setting, is fantastic (I saw this screening with an shared press/public audience, and the woman behind me couldn’t stop singing along to the pop songs in the movie – the soundtrack is that infectious). All of it is backed up by a fantastic and appropriate musical score by Hans Zimmer, one of the greatest composers in the business.

After years of seeing Abby Ryder Fortson as an adorable little girl in supporting roles in films like FOREVER MY GIRL, A DOG’S JOURNEY, and the ANT-MAN series, the young lady finally gets to take a leading role and be the center of attention she deserves to be. Fortson brings this character to life, running the gamut when it comes to everything the portrayal requires. From innocence to anger, from curiosity to personal doubts, she’s everything the movie needs and then some. Here’s hoping Fortson goes on to a successful career in her later teen years and into adulthood as well.

While the movie largely belongs to Fortson’s Margaret (her name’s in the title after all), The supporting cast is equally impressive including Rachel McAdams (DOCTOR STRANGE, GAME NIGHT) as Margaret’s mother going through some life changes of her own, Benny Sadfie as Margaret’s inept but well-meaning and lovable father, and Kathy Bates (MISERY, THE WATERBOY) as the title character’s paternal grandmother, with whom she shares a particularly special bond. Movies that have an element of family don’t work if the actors and actresses don’t have chemistry, but this cast is phenomenal, whether they’re reassuring each other or at one another’s throats in an argument.

The situations Margaret finds herself in are all over the place, and it seems like they’re either hilarious or heart-wrenching. You’re certainly laugh when Margaret and her peers are trying to do exercises to increase their bust sizes or purchase sanitary pads for the first time, but the movie isn’t afraid to go more dramatic when it needs to be, right down to our young heroine even questioning her existence in God following a particularly heated moment in the film. One of the greatest strength of this story is how so much of the awkwardness and drama is relatable. While the book was written by a woman and it’s largely told from a female perspective, there are many elements that people of all ages and genders can relate to, further adding to the tale’s strengths.

The only real weakness of this otherwise stellar film is that it does take on a few too many characters and subplots. There are elements you’ll wish got explored in greater depth, as the film does introduce persons who have plenty of potential comic and dramatic value, only for them to often be shafted and aborted in favor of others, who often suffer the same fate. Again, having never read Blume’s original novel, I can’t speak for whether any of this is more deeply explored in the original story, but for what it is, this is a strong film with great moments throughout.

MARGARET is easily one of the best films of 2023 so far, due in no small part to its fantastic production values, a great cast including what will hopefully be the first in a long line of starring roles for Abby Ryder Fortson, and universal, relatable themes, all while not being afraid to be unflinching as its source material was. Despite a few minor hiccups, namely too many characters and plot points, I can wholeheartedly recommend this film.

By Taylor T Carlson

Taylor T Carlson Assistant Editor/Senior Staff Writer Taylor T. Carlson was born August 17, 1984, and has called the Vegas Valley home his entire life. A die-hard fan of classic rock and metal music, Taylor has been writing album and concert reviews since he was 16 years old, and continues to do so, having done well over 1,000 reviews. He is also a fan of video gaming and cinema, and has reviewed a number of games and films as well, old and new alike. His thorough and honest (some would say brutally honest) reviewing style has won him the respect of hundreds of music fans and musicians alike, both local and abroad, and the ire of just as many others. Despite being one of the youngest attendees at classic hard rock/metal shows around Vegas, he is also one of the most knowledgeable, having gained the unofficial nickname of “The Eddie Trunk of Las Vegas.” In addition to reviews, Taylor has written and self-published three books on classic hard rock bands, and is a regular participant in rock and roll trivia contests. Taylor also holds a masters degree in special education from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), and has appeared on the hit History Channel television series Pawn Stars. His dream is to be able to one day make a living from writing music books and reviews.

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