Photo: ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’
There’s a new coming-of-age story adaptation rolling around the corner. Based on the beloved, classic novel from 1970, written by Judy Blume, ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ is getting the silver screen treatment next spring. Blume allegedly rejected several offers for her book to be adapted throughout the years, before recently selling the rights to Kelly Fremon Craig (the screenwriter and director of the adaptation) and her writing partner, James L. Brooks. This sweet story about faith and growing pains has resonated with many throughout the years, and remains one of the best depictions of early adolescence. Hopefully, the film will be able to do this story the justice it deserves.
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The book centers on Margaret Simon, an eleven-year-old who struggles with growing up after moving to the New Jersey suburbs. From the ever-changing politics of her new friend group, to boys and bras, to menstruation, our eleven-year-old protagonist must navigate these typical but confusing milestones. Additionally, one of Margaret’s parents is Jewish while the other is Christian, leading Margaret to question what her faith should look like and prompting the common conversations she has with God, which she always starts by saying: “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret.” The film is set to star Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret, with Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie as her parents. Kathy Bates will be portraying her paternal grandmother, Sylvia. It looks like this book adaptation is in trusted hands.
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‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ – The Bittersweet Joy of a Coming-of-Age Story
It can sometimes feel as though society is obsessed with all things dark and mature. The next hit television series or set of novels should grapple with life’s existence and push their characters through a massive amount of trauma in order to reach acclaim. Though we all know, being dark and mature doesn’t equal quality content, stories created for younger audiences can be just as good as the ones created for older audiences. I think it can be too easy to dismiss a child’s intelligence and experience just on the basis of their age. After all, we were all children once. The original novel is written for the middle-grade age group, aligning its audience with its protagonist. Stories such as this are important because they can spark so much joy while also tapping into less pleasant emotions like sadness. Growing pains are extremely difficult. You don’t know what your body is doing or why it’s doing it, your emotions are changing faster than your interests, and your friends are pretending they’re handling growing up better than you. And yet, there’s still so much joy in being able to grow up and find your identity and place in the world. That bittersweet joy is almost like magic, and it makes these coming-of-age stories worth it.
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All the events Margaret goes through throughout her adolescence are relatable because we’ve all experienced that part of our life. Those types of moments that everyone can relate to are vital for coming-of-age tales. Margaret as a protagonist is especially enjoyable because Blume’s writing perfectly captures the thoughts and feelings of an eleven-year-old. Margaret has so much innocence, but that does not mean she is not intelligent. It’ll be up to actress Abby Ryder Fortson to bring all those nuances to life.
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Crafting the Right Cast
Abby Ryder Fortson can be recognized for her role as Cassie Lang in ‘Ant-Man’ and its sequel, in which she starred as Paul Rudd’s adorable and vibrant daughter. At just the age of fourteen, she seems to be racking up impressive acting credits, and we can’t wait to see where she goes next and how she makes her role as Margaret Simon her own. Rachel McAdams as her mother seems like a lovely casting choice. Audiences have gotten to see all shades and personalities of McAdams as she has transformed herself for various roles, from mean girl Regina George, to her Oscar-nominated turn as reporter Sacha Pfeiffer in ‘Spotlight.’ McAdams has played the romantic lead in plenty of her films, so it’ll be enticing to watch her take on this maternal role. Acting opposite her is Benny Safdie, who has made quite a splash as a writer and director. He most recently worked on ‘Uncut Gems,’ but audiences can recognize his acting credits from ‘Licorice Pizza’ and the upcoming film ‘Oppenheimer.’ Last, but certainly not least, the great Kathy Bates is bringing her talent to this film, and we can’t wait to see this iconic star share the screen with all these actors.
Casting any film is difficult, but casting an adaptation is even more challenging because the actors not only have to fit into the director’s vision, they have to embody the precedent of the characters set by the author. All of these names have the abilities and understanding to treat the source material right and deliver their anticipated performances. Let’s see if they can overcome this difficulty.
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The Beauty of Simplicity
Like many other coming-of-age stories, ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ profits off of the simplicity of this story. Sure, it’s fun to read/watch characters ride a dragon and defeat evil, but sometimes we need stories that hit closer to home and our everyday lives. Realistic fiction can be a beautiful genre. Margaret battling issues all young girls face is simple on the outside, but can still be layered. There are so many books and movies out there that focus on making everything a spectacle and making the plot super complex in order to seem interesting and engaging enough. But truth be told, the simple stories can be just as interesting. If a story is less concerned about complexities, then there’s more room for the plot and the characters to breathe, and for the audience to emotionally attach to the story as a whole.
This adaptation is set to release on April 28th, 2023. That’s still a few months away, but it’s the perfect time to put this one on your radar as the new year rolls around. It also gives you a good amount of time to read or reread the novel this movie will be based on a novel I can’t recommend enough! So keep your eyes open for ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ at your local bookstore and coming to the screen in 2023.
Cast: Abby Ryder Fortson, Rachel McAdams, Benny Safdie, Kathy Bates, Elle Graham, Wilbur Fitzgerald, Mia Dillon, Jecobi Swain, Holli Saperstein
Director: Kelly Fremon Craig
Writer: Kelly Fremon Craig
Producers: Julie Ansell, Judy Blume, James L. Brooks, Kelly Fremon Craig, Jonathan McCoy, Colby Pines, Aldric La’auli Porter, Jarin Rossiter, Richard Sakai
Editor: Oona Flaherty & Nick Moore
Cinematography: Tim Ives
By Rachel Beltowski
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Rachel Beltowski is a screenwriter and film critic, with a passion for character-driven stories and thought-provoking themes. From adventure to horror, Rachel enjoys stories which take the audience on an emotional rollercoaster and allow for personal expression that would otherwise go silent. Rachel was drawn to The Hollywood Insider’s dedication to individual perspectives and positive world impacts. The Hollywood Insider has provided a foundation for Rachel to share her insights and leap into the center of the entertainment industry. Rachel hopes to bring a fresh voice into the world of film and television, and share her love of stories with others.