Even though we all have to do it, there’s no humiliation quite so acute as going through puberty, that magical time when rampant hormones and unexpected bodily changes render us unrecognizable to ourselves as we’re thrust into life’s first identity crisis. Trying on different personae, flitting around social groups at school, reckoning with the Cronenbergian horrors taking place between one’s legs — it’s such stuff as cringe comedy gold is made of.
Square one for this proud tradition of embarrassment is Judy Blume’s seminal coming-of-age novel Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, a widely-read classic the author has carefully guarded from generations of filmmakers hoping to adapt it. Until, that is, The Edge of Seventeen director Kelly Fremon Craig brought an impassioned pitch that Blume couldn’t deny, her from-the-heart earnestness evident in the first trailer posted just this morning.
Abby Ryder Fortson leads as plucky Margaret Simon, a sixth-grader uprooted from her life in New York as her family — goyische mom Rachel McAdams, Jewish dad Benny Safdie, and grandma Kathy Bates — relocate to suburban New Jersey in the summer of 1970. As she considers her split religious heritage, she and her gaggle of new friends go through such timeless milestones of early adulthood as mortifying sexual-health presentations at school, crushes on a carousel of interchangeably gangly boys, and the momentous purchase of the first training bra.
All the while, the adults have their own baggage to unpack: Mom’s in over her head with all the volunteer positions she’s taken just to fit in, Dad’s a lifelong city mouse suddenly forced to operate a lawnmower, and Grandma’s grieving her recently departed husband while looking for a renewed sense of purpose in life. Teenagers may believe that all of existence is conspiring against them, but at any age, we’re all still in a perpetual state of going-through-it-ness.
Ultimately, the trailer posits this take on Blume’s prose as a wholesome salute to girlhood in all its messy wonder, celebrating the humor and inner strength along with the awkward discomfort. A world premiere is soon to come at the Sundance Film Festival prior to a theatrical run later this year, at which time another wave of girls will experience the eternal story for the first time in a new form — and, one hopes, seek out the novel that inspired it.
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret comes to cinemas in the UK and US on 28 April, 2023.
Published 12 Jan 2023