I Was Terrified ‘Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret’ Would Be a Disaster—But the Film Totally Exceeded My Expectations

PureWow editors select every item that appears on this page, and the company may earn compensation through affiliate links within the story. All prices are accurate upon date of publish. You can learn more about the affiliate process here.

I remember it like it was yesterday. As my parents watched TV in the living room, I, at just 11 years old, sat on my bed engrossed in my copy of Judy Blume’s Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret. Little did my conservative parents know that I was reading about a young girl who explored different religions, questioned God and was going through the trials and tribulations of puberty—a book they certainly wouldn’t have approved of. But I was careful to keep my descriptions of the reading material vague, because I could see so much of myself in Margaret’s character, and I couldn't risk not finishing the story. 

Fast-forward to the present day—over two decades later—and I found myself a bottle of mixed emotions as I sat in a crowded theater, waiting to see the film adaptation. What if Hollywood butchers this iconic story? What if it’s not true to the source material? And what if the star-studded cast is the only good thing about it? These were the thoughts that festered in my mind from the moment I first saw the official trailer.

But then I saw the opening scene, with the enthusiastic Margaret returning from summer camp to greet her well-meaning parents and her fabulous grandmother, and I exhaled. By the end, I had to resist the sudden urge to give a standing ovation, because surprisingly, this movie exceeded any and all expectations.

are you there god 2
Dana Hawley

In case you’re unfamiliar with the plot, the movie follows Margaret Simon, a sixth grader whose world is turned upside down when she learns that her family is moving from New York to New Jersey. As she tries to navigate this new environment and make new friends, she deals with the ups and downs of adolescence, from wanting a bra to waiting for her first period. Also, Margaret begins to question her belief in God, which proves to be a challenge because of her parents’ interfaith marriage. 

Fortunately, this movie truly captures the spirit of Blume’s book—but not necessarily because it follows the original story to a T. For one, it has a lot to do with how Abby Ryder Fortson brings the main character to life. She embodies Margaret’s carefree nature and innocence, and her constant efforts to connect with God on a personal level feel genuine. For instance, there are several moments throughout the film where Margaret voices her frustrations to God when it comes to feeling like a late bloomer, fitting in with her new friends and missing her grandmother.

are you there god 3
Dana Hawley

But even as Margaret goes through these challenges, the film maintains a fun, light-hearted tone. There are quite a few chuckle-worthy moments—like when the girls practice their infamous bust exercises. And as expected, there are stellar performances all around. Kathy Bates shines as Margaret's sassy grandma, Sylvia, and steals practically every scene she's in. Rachel McAdams is also a delight to watch because she brings so much depth to Barbara. But perhaps the most rewarding part is seeing how the film expands on the book by incorporating both of these characters' storylines.

Although the original story is told through the lens of just Margaret, the movie sheds light on Barbara’s story. As it turns out, she has a lot in common with her daughter because she doesn’t have everything figured out, and trying to find her place in a new town proves to be a big challenge for her. Meanwhile, it’s revealed that Sylvia feels a void when the family moves away to New Jersey, and she decides to head to Florida in an attempt to fill that void.

are you there god 5
Dana Hawley

Another bonus that elevates this film is the addition of BIPOC characters. For instance, Margaret's friend, Janine, is Black, although this isn't necessarily clarified in the book. Her kind-hearted teacher, Mr. Benedict, and her classmate, Freddy, are also portrayed by Black actors, which shows that director Kelly Fremon Craig was very intentional about making the story feel more inclusive and diverse.

Unlike other adaptations that I've seen, these tweaks don't feel out of place or forced. They actually add richness and context without completely deviating from the original work—which I suspect will draw plenty of newcomers who aren't familiar with Blume's book.

So yes, I’m happy (and incredibly relieved) to say that this adaptation did the book justice. To that, I say, “Thank you, God. Thanks an awful lot.”

PureWow Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret feels like a love letter to longtime fans of the book, but this charming coming-of-age tale will also resonate with newer fans. Not only does it feature a host of great performances, but it also smartly tackles subjects like puberty, religion, friendship and identity with humor and grace.

For a full breakdown of PureWow's entertainment rating system, click here.

Get more entertainment news sent to your inbox by subscribing here.

nakeisha campbell bio

Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...