Review – Puberty Sucks (“Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret”)

Based on the controversial 1970 novel by Judy Blume, she refused for an astonishing 49 years to have her book brought to the screen. It dealt with frank and open discussions of girls & sex, bras, menstruation, boys, and religious ideals. But after seeing Edge of Seventeen by director/writer Kelly Fremon Craig, the long reluctant Blume was sold! 

Life is pretty sweet for 12-year-old Margaret Simon (Abby Ryder Fortson) living in NYC in 1970. . . that is until she has to move with her mom & dad to New Jersey. Ugh! After relocating into a nice house in the ‘burbs, Margaret meets vivacious pre-teen Nancy (Elle Graham) who invites her to join her exclusive girls club, where she also meets Janie Loomis (Amari Alexis Price) and Gretchen Potter (Katherine Mallen Kupferer). Shy Margaret is introduced to all sorts of new things, like bras, the hot boy in class (Landon S. Baxter), the class doofus (Simms May), and how to make your boobs bigger. And all the while questioning where she fits in the world of religion, since her mom is Catholic and her dad is Jewish, a source of friction with their parents.    

Their new 6th-grade teacher (Echo Kellum) is wonderful, but Margaret is struggling, so she talks to God all the time. Things at home aren’t going well as her artistic mother (Rachel McAdams) is feeling overwhelmed and her fun-loving granny, Sylvia (Kathy Bates), is constantly seeking me-time with her granddaughter. As the months roll on, Margaret and her girl group discuss getting their periods and who’ll be the lucky one to get it first, giving her even more anxiety. Will all the humor in the first and second acts, the third pulls the rug out as it becomes a heart-breaking, tissue-grabbing melodrama.

Adapted screenplay & directed by Craig, she thankfully decided to keep this movie grounded in the original book’s era, the 1970’s, instead of updating it for 2023, which I’m so grateful for, as it would have changed the whole dynamic/context of the film. This isn’t the kind of film you might think; it’s not a wild & raunchy F-bomb-laden, coming-of-age film like Good Boys or Superbad. In fact, I was shocked to not hear any swear words at all! And all the laughs are not your typical “set-up/punch line” joke, but a cavalcade of genuine, real-life humor that stems from situations that aren’t forced or exaggerated. I can’t believe they actually made a movie like this in 2023!

And the acting is amazing, too. Abby Ryder Fortson (who played little Cassie in the Ant-Man movies) has the acting chops to carry this movie with her emotion-filled face. She gives every scene your attention. Elle Graham, as Margaret’s BFF, steals every scene with her exuberance and gives a bravura performance. Rachel McAdams is dynamic as the caring, loving mom, and Kathy Bates couldn’t be better. Director/writer Craig has pulled a hat trick and delivered a very funny, solid, entertaining, moving, and thought-provoking film that doesn’t fit the mold of others before it. This is such a good movie that should be seen!

**Now showing in theaters only 

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