Growing pains painfully funny in ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.’

The new release is playing at or coming to local movie theaters near you: Cozy Theatre in Wadena, Comet Theater in Perham and Washington Square 7 in Detroit Lakes.

"Are You There God? It's me, Margaret." movie poster
Author Judy Blume's classic novel “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” is adapted for the big screen in a new movie centered around growing up, sexuality and identity.
Frank Lee / Wadena Pioneer Journal

“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” was the novel answer to adolescents everywhere who had questions about puberty but were too embarrassed to ask.

Author Judy Blume’s young adult novel was first published in 1970. But it’s finally getting the big-screen treatment with a feature film adaptation of her classic book now in movie theaters.

Set in the time period the book first came out, the coming-of-age dramedy stars Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret Simon, a sixth grader struggling to fit in with her peers after her family moves from a New York City apartment to a New Jersey suburb in the 1970s.

Rounding out the cast is Rachel McAdams as the girl’s mother, who is now a stay-at-home mom, and Kathy Bates as the paternal grandmother. McAdams’ character is also trying to adapt to challenging and changing times associated with the family’s relocation just like her daughter.

Frank Lee headshot
Frank Lee
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The Oscar-nominated McAdams is perhaps best known for her role in the feature film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ tear-jerker “The Notebook." Bates’ long career includes a star-making role in Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “Misery,” which netted an Oscar.


Forston as the titular character in Blume’s seminal novel shines with her natural delivery of lines and immensely relatable insecurities about puberty and associated topics surrounding daunting things like shopping for her first bra or purchasing a sanitary napkin.

As one of only two men in the audience at the showing I was at, the giggles from the overwhelmingly female audience could be heard as they watched the motion picture, which reminded me of the ABC TV series “The Wonder Years” starring Fred Savage.

Let’s face it, growing up is not easy and when a girl's (or a boy’s) body starts changing, those years can be especially nerve-wracking in an adolescent’s life, filled with anxiety, self-doubt, fear, uncertainty and other negative emotions that can only hopefully seem funny in retrospect.

Director Kelly Fremon Craig handles the subject matter with a deft touch and Blume was listed as one of the producers of the two-hour film that is rated PG-13 for its frank discussion of sexuality. Craig wrote and directed the coming-of-age dramedy “The Edge of Seventeen.”

Thrown into the mix of “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” is a subplot involving the interfaith marriage of the girl’s parents. The father is Jewish and the mother is Christian, so her parents disapproved of the union and have never met their granddaughter.

Bates’ character attempts to convert the child to Judaism while the mother’s estranged parents later attempt to have the girl baptized. The bickering grandparents argue over the girl’s soul or salvation and it seeds further doubt in the soon-to-be young woman’s mind about identity.

“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” currently has a remarkable 99% approval rating among critics and a 94% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.

The consensus from the critics at "Effervescent and refreshingly frank about the travails of puberty, this long-awaited adaptation does full justice to Judy Blume's seminal novel."

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The weekly newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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