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‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ Hits Different Now That We’re Old Enough To Be Margaret’s Mom

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When you watch a movie or read a book as a kid, you naturally identify with the younger characters. But when you revisit that same story as an adult and find that you now have more in common with a whole different set of characters — namely, the adults you used to find unreasonable, unfair, or just plain boring — it feels surreal. I remember thinking when I was young how horrible King Triton was for confining his free-spirited mermaid daughter Ariel to the sea in The Little Mermaid. But now that I’m a mom, I have an amusingly different perspective: You’re 16 and you want to run off with some dude you just met because you’re in love? Take a seat, ma’am.

I first discovered Judy Blume’s classic coming-of-age novel, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret when I was about the age of the main character, Margaret Simon. I read and re-read my copy until it was dog-eared and tattered. It was just that I could identify so much with Margaret: the worry over when she’d start her period and grow boobs (“We must! We must! We must increase our bust!”), the comparisons to her friends and classmates who seemed so much more mature, the relationships with her parents and grandparents. To have a book that talked so frankly and relatably about the inner lives of preteen girls like me was a breath of fresh air.

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.: Special Edition $7.39 on Amazon.com

I haven’t read the book in decades, but now that I’m in my forties, I’m going to pay it a long-overdue visit; I have the feeling that, like The Little Mermaid, it’ll be a very different experience this time around. But what I’m really excited for is the film adaptation of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret that hits theaters on April 28th. Whether I’m watching it through the nostalgic lens of a former preteen who loved the book, or through my current lens as a mom, I’m sure the movie won’t disappoint.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret stars Rachel McAdams as Margaret’s mom Barbara, Kathy Bates as Margaret’s grandma Sylvia, and Abby Ryder Fortson as the 11-year-old Margaret herself.

The film is directed by Kelly Fremon Craig — director of the 2016 film The Edge of Seventeen — which is precisely what prompted Judy Blume to reach out directly to Fremon Craig.

“I got the greatest email from Judy where she said if someone were to make a film of one of her books, she hoped it would have the same tone and feeling that The Edge of Seventeen had. It’s maybe the greatest compliment I’ve ever gotten, because she has always been a North star for me as a writer,” the director told Deadline in 2018, when the film rights were granted. “What’s helpful is that everybody who reads it sees themselves in it. I read it in the late ’80s and didn’t know it was written in 1970. She captured something universal and timeless enough that it transcends all that.”

In case the movie is your first introduction to the classic, here’s a synopsis from the film studio: “In Lionsgate’s big-screen adaptation, 11-year-old Margaret is uprooted from her life in New York City for the suburbs of New Jersey, going through the messy and tumultuous throes of puberty with new friends in a new school. She relies on her mother, Barbara, who is also struggling to adjust to life outside the big city, and her adoring grandmother, Sylvia, who isn’t happy they moved away and likes to remind them every chance she gets.” 

Kathy Bates as Sylvia Simon and Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret Simon in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Photo Credit: Dana Hawley
Kathy Bates as Sylvia Simon and Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret Simon in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Photo Credit: Dana Hawley Dana Hawley/Lionsgate

From Margaret’s preteen problems to her parents’ very adult issues with their own parents, their move, and their religious beliefs (or lack thereof), I have the feeling that all of us who identified with the book are going to love and identify with the movie just as much — even if it’s for a different reason this time around.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret comes to theaters April 28, 2023.

These Hollywood grandparents aren’t baking cookies or playing Bingo — they’re in their prime of life.

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