Puberty is one of the many aspects of the natural life cycle of a human being. Without it, we cannot grow from child to young adult and then to full adult. That does not mean, however, that the process is not challenging.
The new movie, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. is based on the classic and forever universal book of the same name by Judy Blume. In the early 1970’s Margaret Simon (a fantastic Abby Ryder Fortson) has just ended another season of summer camp. When she gets home, she gets news that no kid wants to hear: her family is moving from New York City to suburban New Jersey.
Though she makes friends easily, Margaret misses her grandmother Sylvia (Kathy Bates). As the school year progresses, puberty sets in, creating a set of questions that do not have black-and-white answers. What Margaret wants most of all is to start menstruating. Raised without religion by her Jewish father Herb (Benny Safdie) and Christian mother Barbara (Rachel McAdams), she starts talking to the almighty and exploring faith in its various incarnations.
Her mother is also going through a learning phase of her own. After giving up her job, Barbara fills her days with trying to put their new house together and joining the local PTA. But the artist in her is not content to put aside her painting for good.
This film is amazing. It was the perfect reminder of that time in life. The narrative is gentle, organic, and respectful of Margaret’s journey. Instead of being pigeonholed into a certain type of character, our protagonist is human and full of the contradictions that come with the pre-teen years.
I can’t end this review without remarking on the fact that this novel has been a target of the book-banning crowd for decades. What makes this book “ban-worthy” is that its lead character is given room to grow beyond what is still sadly expected for girls. It’s not just about boys and future romantic relationships. It’s about figuring out who you are as a person.
What I think also riles them up is that Margaret is not just the child of an interreligious marriage. It’s that religious faith of any kind is not part of how she is being raised. While praying to a specific creator for many is important, this decision by Blume is a reminder that not everyone believes the same way.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is currently in theaters. In fact, I would not be surprised if it is included in any top ten lists at the end of the year.