Is it as good as the book? Short answer: No. Because movies adapted from books are never as good as the book. Well, almost never.
But is it a good MOVIE? Yes. Entertaining. And, yes, charming.
Along with beginning to mature into a new life stage, Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) has to handle a move from New York City to the Jersey suburbs AND a spiritual awakening. The film’s other title character, God, gets significant attention in the story. Margaret’s frequent prayers and religious exposure from her grandma (Kathy Bates) and friends open her mind to new ideas and concepts.
Margaret’s parents are a Christian mom (Rachel McAdams) and a Jewish dad (Ben Safdie) who have chosen not to raise their daughter in either religion. This leads to an ugly episode when Margaret’s maternal grandparents come to visit.
Margaret’s interactions with her friends Nancy (Elle Graham), Janie (Amari Price) and Gretchen (Katherine Kupferer) are the highlights of the film. Their meetings in 2023 would likely be conducted via text messaging or other cyber connections. It’s nice to see them hang out in person in their 1970 world.
The important question here is: can a story set half a century ago still be relevant in our more sophisticated modern day? Absolutely. Sixth grade girls in 2023 are vastly different from those of 1970 but much of this tale is about the things all girls—and their parents—deal with as they transition from childhood into puberty.
Today’s girls are much better informed about many things, receiving details from their peers who are better informed than Margaret’s peers were. And, of course, the internet provides info. And today’s school libraries offer materials that tell girls more than was available back in the day.
Also, can a male moviegoer relate to this story of a young girl who is anxious about getting her first bra and her first period? Puberty is a weird time for boys, too, but women will identify with the film’s central characters and their travails more closely than most men might.
Director Kelly Fremon Craig is to be credited for not overplaying the nostalgia aspect of the production. There are old cars, telephones with cords, girls wearing skirts and dresses instead of slacks, etc. But we’ve seen other filmmakers take the nostalgia route to such an extent that it distracts from the story. Craig, who also scripted the film, does an admirable job of weaving character development with storytelling in a quick-moving hour and forty-five minutes.
Fortson handles well her duty of carrying the title role which is always a concern with juvenile actors. Her talent is obvious. And she’s a cute kid without being cloying. Graham who plays Nancy is impressive as well and her career, too, bears watching. And McAdams always adds to any film she’s in.
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. is rated PG-13. Might be okay for some preteens but that’s where your parental guidance comes into play.