Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Parent Guide
Starkly honest but also tender, funny, and realistic, this movie is a believable journey into the world of preteen girls.
Parent Movie Review
Margaret Simon (Abby Ryder Fortson) is an eleven-year-old with a lot on her plate. Her family has just moved from their New York City apartment to a split-level in New Jersey, separating Margaret from her doting grandmother (Kathy Bates). She has left her friends behind and is now becoming acquainted with neighbor Nancy Wheeler (Elle Graham), a brittle blonde who’s obsessed with boys and puberty.
In addition to making friends, Margaret is trying to establish her religious identity. Her father (Herb Simon) was raised Jewish; her mother (Rachel McAdams) Christian, but neither has any religious affiliation – and despite pressure from the grandparents, insist that Margaret can make up her own mind when she’s an adult. (Religious parents might be unhappy with the depiction of religion in this film: it is often seen as a negative influence that causes conflict.) Margaret sincerely wants to know “what” she should be so she has regular conversations with God where she shares her problems and pleads for help. Margaret is starkly honest and her dialogue with God provides real insight into her priorities, fears, self-assessment, and gradual maturation.
Honesty is probably the movie’s greatest quality, thanks in no small part to its source material. Author Judy Blume is legendary for her ability to understand the emotions of young readers and her book sales testify to the power of that empathy. I read Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret when I was twelve and it was eye-opening. Instead of duplicating the improbable world of the Nancy Drew mysteries I was used to, Blume’s book honestly addressed the issues that preoccupy preteen girls – puberty, moral development, and the complexities of friendship. The screenwriters deserve credit for accurately translating the novel to the big screen; for retaining its touching insight into the world of kids struggling with changing bodies and unpredictable feelings.
The story’s fidelity to lived experience is a selling point for many audiences, but some parents will be unhappy with the film’s puberty-related content. There is frequent discussion of menstruation and breast development (including scenes where girls exercise to increase their bust size). Margaret and her friends even get hold of an anatomy textbook and a Playboy magazine to satisfy their curiosity about sexual development. There is also a scene at a party where boys and girls play Spin the Bottle and similar games. In a post-#MeToo world, seeing young girls socially pressured into kissing boys is very uncomfortable, as is the cruel slut-shaming of a classmate simply because she experienced early breast development. Parents looking for a springboard for discussing society’s expectations and control over women’s bodies will certainly find one with this film.
Through all the cringeworthy moments in the movie, it retains a tender sweetness. Margaret is sincere, earnest, and kind-hearted and genuinely wants to be a good person, however confused she might be in the moment. The writers also give her mother some character development and she and Margaret both learn lessons about being true to themselves and resisting social pressure. If you’re not afraid of this film triggering embarrassing memories from your own tween years, it can provide a touching, nostalgic reminder of the growing pains at the beginning of our road to adulthood.
Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig. Starring Rachel McAdams, Abby Ryder Fortson, Kathy Bates. Running time: 105 minutes. Theatrical release April 28, 2023. Updated January 23, 2024
Watch the trailer for Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
Rating & Content Info
Why is Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. rated PG-13? Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic material involving sexual education and some suggestive material
Violence: None noted.
Sexual Content: Girls frequently talk about menstruation. A girl sticks a maxi-pad into her underpants: there is no nudity in the scene. A girl cries when her period begins. Schoolgirls watch an animated film explaining menstruation. Girls look at an anatomy textbook with medical drawings of a penis. Girls are seen looking at a “Playboy” magazine: no nudity is shown on screen. Girls do exercises to increase their bust size. A girl is unjustly slut-shamed because she has developed breasts. Boys and girls play games that focus on making out. A boy kisses a girl. A boy makes a slighting comment to a girl about the size of her chest. A girl is seen in a bra.
Profanity: The script contains approximately twenty terms of deity and a couple of minor profanities.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults drink alcohol with meals.
Page last updated January 23, 2024
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Parents' Guide
What are the problems that cause Margaret concern or distress? How does she resolve them? What lessons does she learn about herself as she navigates her changing world?
How does Margaret perceive her new friends, especially Nancy? How does Nancy maintain power in her friend group? What does Margaret learn about Nancy? How does that change her feelings about her? How does that impact her own behavior and choices? Do you think Margaret and Nancy will remain friends? Would you?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret is only one of the kid-pleasing novels written by Judy Blume. Other big hits include Freckle Juice, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, and Fudge.
Related home video titles:
Turning Red follows the adventures of MeiMei, a Chinese-Canadian tween who faces not only a controlling mother but a family curse that turns her into a red panda when she feels intense emotion. This film also tackles issues of friendship and puberty with Disney’s expected light touch.
The agonies of early adolescence are shown through Kayla’s eyes as she navigates the end of middle school and psychs herself up for high school in Eighth Grade. This R-rated film is worth watching for parents who want to understand the milieu their kids face in school in this generation.
The physical and social challenges of high school are apparent when a mother and daughter inadvertently switch bodies in Freaky Friday.
In Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Greg Heffley has a plan for conquering the social world of middle school – but things don’t work out as expected.
Barney is socially isolated in middle school so he begs his dad to buy him a digital best friend. The tale of Barney’s adventures with his glitchy B*bot is told in Ron’s Gone Wrong.