Kelly Fremon Craig follows up The Edge of Seventeen with an adaptation of Judy Blume’s beloved book, Are You There G-d? It’s Me, Margaret.
It’s been over six years since Craig hit a home run with her feature directorial debut but the wait was worth it. If you’re a fan of Judy Blume, there’s a good chance that you’ll be satisfied by the final product. She hits this one out of the park, too.
It goes without saying that adapting a Judy Blume novel for her sophomore outing means having a lot of pressure in getting it right. There’s always this fear whenever there’s a new book adaptation coming to the screen. It doesn’t matter whether it’s for the big screen or the small screen because fans don’t want a beloved book to get ruined. Even with the changes for the adaptation, Fremon Craig stays true to the spirit of the book while keeping it in the early 1970s. At the end of the day, this is what’s most important. Well, next to having Judy Blume’s blessing.
Abby Ryder Fortson previously held her own against Paul Rudd as Cassie Lang in the first two Ant-Man movies. This time around, she is front and center. Let me tell you: Abby Ryder Fortson is a star-in-the-making. What we’re witnessing is the start of what I expect will be a promising career on the screen.
There are probably politicians that don’t want you to see this film because it discusses puberty. And yet, it’s just as timely and relevant for this exact reasons. Why is it that conservatives are so afraid of children learning about their bodies? Young kids probably want to know about the changes that await their body in middle or high school. G-d only knows how much I needed the transgender awareness and education in the 1990s! Anyway, the discussion of puberty is where Judy Blume enters the picture. She wrote the novel in just six weeks, not knowing if any publisher would be interested. Lo and behold, it became a bestselling novel and beloved by millions. Craig destigmatizes periods in the film by treating them as something normal.
Shortly after the film begins, Margaret Simon (Abby Ryder Fortson) moves with her parents, Barbara (Rachel McAdams) and Herb (Benny Safdie), from city that never sleeps to the great state of New Jersey. It puts her further away from her grandmother, Sylvia (Kathy Bates), who is also her best friend in the entire world. Almost as soon as she arrives in this strange new state, she meets Nancy Wheeler (Elle Graham), who lives down the street and invites her into her secret club consisting of Janie Loomis (Amari Price) and Gretchen Potter (Katherine Kupferer).
At school, Margaret finds herself in Mr. Benedict’s (Echo Kellum) classroom. It may be the early 1970s but he’s one of the first Black faculty members at Delano Elementary School. Margaret sees how the secret club makes fun of Laura Danker (Isol Young) for being more developed physically at her age. The teasing isn’t right but I like how Fremon Craig resolves the story arc. Where was Kelly Fremon Craig when I was growing up and being brutally teased in middle and high school?!?
When the casting first came out, my initial concern was how the film would capture the Jewishness of the book. Suffice it to say, they do a wonderful job. In the film, Barbara marrying a Jewish man is what estranges her from her evangelical parents, Mary Hutchins (Mia Dillon) and Paul Hutchins (Gary Houston). Because of this, Herb and Bennie are not raising Margaret with any religion. And yet, this does not stop Margaret from praying to G-d or checking out houses of worship. During a trip to visit her grandmother, Margaret visits a synagogue. I’m not going lie that it came as a pleasant surprise that former Keneseth Israel rabbi Michael Wolk is the rabbi in the film. Rabbi Wolk was also instrumental in advising Fremon Craig on what to film in the shul.
There’s a scene in the film where all the grandparents are fighting each other. It’s as hysterical as one expects it will be. You have the Jewish grandmother fighting with the evangelical grandparents over what religion their grandchild should be. It’s the sort of set piece that has the potential to ruin a family. Mind you, Margaret has been exploring all these houses of worship and also sees how the secret club is behaving as everyone gets IT.
Behind the scenes, editors Nick Moore and Oona Flaherty help make the film what it is. Meanwhile, Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer provides Fremon Craig with another solid score for the film.
Kelly Fremon Craig does it again as Are You There G-d? It’s Me, Margaret. is a film that wonderfully adapts Judy Blume’s book for the big screen.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Kelly Fremon Craig
CAST: Rachel McAdams, Abby Ryder Fortson, Elle Graham, Benny Safdie, Echo Kellum, and Kathy Bates
Lionsgate will release Are You There G-d? It’s Me, Margaret. in theaters on April 28, 2023. Grade: 5/5
Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.
You must be logged in to post a comment.