The classic coming-of-age Judy Blume novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. becomes an honest, heartfelt, and hilarious film from Kelly Fremon Craig. Regardless of age, gender, or creed, the story of a young teen adjusting to changing schools, friendship dynamics, and growing bodies is instantly relatable and brought to life with a fantastic cast. With a terrific A/V presentation and some solid bonus features, it’s a release to celebrate. Highly Recommended
I’m not sure if you remember growing up, but becoming a hormone-addled pimple-faced teenager kind of sucked. Sure, there were great times to be had, but still, there were also those tribulations of changing friend dynamics, suddenly finding yourself with a brand new body with a mind of its own, and also on the cusp of the responsibilities of impending adulthood. While the works of Judy Blume were certainly targeted at young ladies, the stories are relatable to damn near everyone. The most famous of Blume’s works is arguably Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Loved by millions and a genuine literary classic, so why did it take so long to become a film? Maybe it was because we needed the right filmmaker to come along.
Meet Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson). A precocious young New Yorker, Margaret’s life is turned upside down when her mom Barbara (Rachel McAdams), and her dad Herb (Benny Safdie) announce the family is moving to New Jersey. Well, they didn’t announce it, Grandma Sylvia (Kathy Bates) blurted it out when Marget got home from school. Now in a new town and new school, Margaret will have to navigate the trials and tribulations of meeting new friends, boys, changing bodies, and determining her own faith. If Mom and Dad can’t answer these questions, maybe God can help?
For a “too long, didn’t read” version of events, I do vaguely remember reading this book in school, but I don’t remember when or for what class. Not feeling like I was in the target demographic, I probably did the bare bones on the assignment before returning to reading some Clive Barker story or horribly violent comic book. Not giving it another thought for most of thirty years, I dove into this film about as cold as could be without even seeing a theatrical trailer. Pleasant surprises being what they are, I found this film absolutely delightful. And I’m glad it was a film.
Too often these days the sort of familiar IP content that is right for an hour-and-forty-minute movie (like this one) is stretched thin by being extended into an over-long mini-series for a streaming platform. For the events of the story, this is the perfect length covering a range of important topics with an appropriate level of seriousness while not skimping on the comedic reprieve. What could seem like the most devastating event for a teenager can be quite hilarious as an adult. But for genuinely serious issues like inter-faith marriage or discovering your friends may be your worst enemies, neither Judy Blume’s novel nor Kelly Fremon Craig’s adaptation take the issues lightly. Through bittersweet honesty, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. becomes a wonderfully poignant piece of filmmaking.
Throw age, gender, and religion out the window, this film and its story are immediately relatable to everyone. Craig assembled a terrific cast and distilled the story’s essence perfectly. Watching the film, I was hit with memories of the novel I hadn’t acknowledged reading in the better side of 25 years. Sure, I wasn’t worried about the social pressures of getting my period or breasts (not at all applicable) but I do remember becoming a young man. My generation had a weird thing about getting facial and chest hair as proof of your masculinity and manhood. I was an early bloomer so I was excused from that nonsense, but I remember a kid who pasted cat hair on his chest in an effort to fit in. I remember thinking it was hilarious then, but watching this film as an adult reminded me how hard and terrifying it was to fit in and that willingness to do anything to achieve some sort of social normalcy.
And while those waves of memories (sometimes painful ones) make the film relatable, all credit to Kelly Fremon Craig for finding the line between schmaltzy melodrama and genuine heartfelt human drama. There’s enough sweetness with the sour that the film never feels overly dogged or serious while the humor never feels forced or too cheeky. Every emotional hit, good and bad, lands as intended In addition to the previously mentioned actors, Elle Graham shines as Nancy, Amari Alexis Price is wonderful as Janie, Katherine Mallen Kupferer delivers as Gretchen and Isol Young turns in a lovely performance as infamous Laura Danker.
Front to back, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. was just a wonderful film. I went in to review it just to make sure we had the coverage for it, but found myself connecting to it more than I thought I would. This is why I give every movie a fair shake. Some movies are just bad and you move on, but then something like this comes around and you’re left happy you gave it the time. I’ve got three young nieces that’ll need to make this essential viewing if they haven’t already read the book.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. comes home to Blu-ray thanks to Lionsgate in a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital set. Housed in an eco-friendly two-disc case with an identical slipcover, the film is pressed on a BD-50 disc and loads to a static image main menu with standard navigation options.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. moves home to 1080p Blu-ray with an often lovely and warm-looking transfer. Pitched in ‘70s brown/yellows with harsh red and blue decore, the film captures the look and feel of the era nicely. Details in the period-specific clothing, textures on furniture, hairstyles, everything is on display. Black levels are terrific with strong shadow delineation for an often impressive sense of depth - wide shots of the neighborhood or when Margaret goes to school are especially effective. Whites are nice and crisp without blooming issues. A shame it’s not currently available in 4K, but this disc is a winner.
Interestingly enough this release of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. sports a subtle but effective Atmos mix. It’s not an action-packed film and the sound design isn’t overly aggressive but instead focuses on delivering a true immersive quality. When Margaret goes to school or first meets her new friends it sounds just like you’re walking through the neighborhood into your friend’s house with accents of lawnmowers, chipping birds, and slow steady road traffic. Again, these effects aren’t designed to pull your attention but set the soundscape with full range of Front/Center, Side, Rear, and Height channel effects. Heights or vertical effects are mostly for atmospherics like carrying the murmurs of kids in the hallways, but in a few sequences like when Margaret and her Grandmother go see The Pirates of Penzance and for Modern Major General the height channels pick up some more distinct activity. Again, not an aggressive Atmos mix, but it’s very effective for a drama/comedy.
On the bonus features side, we have a nice range of featurettes to dig into. Some of the pieces can feel a little talking-head EPK trying to squeeze a lot of material into a small container, but there’s great stuff in there about the background of the production, what it took to get the film going, casting, and recreating the early 1970s look. There’s also a nice albeit brief interview with Judy Blume. There’s also a short selection of deleted scenes, only about 90 seconds worth, but they’re humorous bits I imagine were cut for time and pace more than anything else.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. proved to be an unexpected delight. The trailer looked great but like almost everyone else, I didn’t make the time to catch it in the theater. Now that it’s here on disc and digital, I hope folks find the time to give it a look. Especially anyone with younger-ish kids. While it’s a story told from the perspective of a young 12-year-old girl, it’s relatable to everyone. Growing up is tough and confusing and this story and this film capture those feelings with genuine heart and humor. On Blu-ray, the film looks terrific with a great video transfer capped off with an immersive Atmos mix. Bonus features come in at under an hour of content, but are a worthwhile look at the making of the film and the lasting legacy of Judy Blume’s book. Highly Recommended - especially if you have a soon-to-be teenager in the home.