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  • Writer's pictureEugene

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. (2023)


After typing the extended title of this 2023 film, I felt exhausted and had a cup of tea and a Penguin.  (Just an advert for the forthcoming Mighty Penguins and The Nettle Dress).

 

‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ is based on Judy Blume’s 1970’s teenage novel. This nostalgic, warm and funny coming of age film made us reflect on our own growing up experiences. Our discussion group shared memories of girl gangs getting together in the school toilets, our envy of more physically mature classmates and experiencing hopeless sex education lessons in school. We reminisced about being free to fearlessly play out and explore our community.

 

In one amusing sequence, the Pre-Teen Sensations chant “We must, we must, we must increase our bust!” while performing the linked exercise. This all seemed worryingly familiar.

 

The film captured the spirit of a more innocent era in a tender, unpretentious way.  The storyline also explored a shifting time in Margaret’s family’s lives, as they move from urban New York to the green lawns of New Jersey.

 

The acting could not be faulted. As well as the delightful Abby Ryder Fortson as eleven-year-old Margaret, Kathy Bates did a star turn as a colourful heartwarming Jewish booba (that’s Grandma, for the uninitiated, nothing to do with improving busts). Margaret’s parents, played by Benny Safdie (Herb) and Rachel McAdams (Barbara), pleased us all.

 

We valued Barbara Simons’ own growth journey, as she develops self-confidence, independence and the ability to say no.  We liked the representation of Margaret’s dedicated teacher, learning on the job, committed yet unsure of himself.

 

Religion was treated respectfully and authentically. I appreciated the solemnity of the synagogue/temple scene and small nods to Grandma Sylvia’s Jewishness in the décor of her home, with a menorah and Shabbat candles spied in the background.

 

The showdown scene with Margaret’s critical Christian grandparents coming to visit made less of an impact. Their characters were underdeveloped; however, this could reflect their sketchiness in the original novel.

 

One critic wasn’t happy that God didn’t appear in the end in an ‘epiphanic moment of divine revelation,’ (yes, we are talking about you, Peter Bradshaw), one of the discussion group members rightfully pointed out that Margaret does get her period and so her prayers do come true.

 

The short films were appreciated and we were touched by a Chinese animation that had the impact of the past one child policy at its centre.

 

We ended with a general thank you to all at Rusthall Community Cinema for the time and care taken to create our special film nights.  That goes for everyone in the discussion group too.  We were all delighted to see some children at this evening. It’s a rare joy to see younger faces in the audience.

 

Anne

 

 

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