Kelly Fremon Craig Finally Brings Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret to the Big Screen
The boundary-pushing novel adaptation is in theaters now
By Meher Qazilbash
Photos by Dana Hawley
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, a movie anticipated by several generations, released in theaters on Friday, April 28.
The film is based on Judy Blume’s enormously successful young adult novel, published in 1970, that is still cherished by young readers today.
The story follows 11-year-old Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson), a sixth-grader navigating her family’s move to a completely new town, her parent’s interfaith marriage and the agony of puberty.
During this tumultuous time, she gains support from her gentle mother, Barbara (Rachel McAdams), her cheerful father, Herb (Benny Safdie) and her melodramatic grandmother, Sylvia (Kathy Bates).
Judy Blume Still Matters
Timeless and revolutionary, Blume’s bold voice holds importance for people of all ages. It unapologetically shares the highs and lows of female adolescence. In this hilarious and heartbreaking book, readers relate to Margaret’s anxieties surrounding menstruation, wearing bras, fitting in, faith and family conflicts.
Girlhood is presented in its true light as a journey of neurosis, existentialism and gumption. In addition to the emotional insights, Blume’s novel generates conversations about taboo topics, removing shame and allowing young women to speak openly about the painful and pleasant aspects of their own natural processes.
Written for the screen and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, who also created the hilarious and touching 2016 coming-of-age movie The Edge of Seventeen, the work is wonderfully true to the book.
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Blume has famously refused to turn her legendary titles into motion pictures. More than 50 years later, Fremon Craig appealed to her through a heartfelt letter as a true fan.
Moved by her sincerity and influenced by the masterful storytelling she witnessed in The Edge of Seventeen, Blume agreed to grant the rights.
Meet Writer and Director Kelly Fremon Craig
TRIBEZA sat down with the bright and hysterical Fremon Craig during her visit to Austin for the film’s press tour. The filmmaker told us about her inspirations, struggles and what she loves about our city.
Why did you want to tell this story?
I read the book when I was 11, and fell instantly in love with it. I also became obsessed with Judy Blume and thought, “Who is this person with a direct line to my brain that knows everything I’m thinking and feeling?” I started to read everything that she had written.
After I made The Edge of Seventeen, I was thinking about what I wanted to do next. I started to think, “Okay, who are the authors that I most love?”
The very first person that came to mind was Judy Blume. She’s the person who made me fall in love with reading.
I started to re-read all her work and then when I got to this one, I just said, “Oh my gosh! That has to be a film. It’s so beautiful and funny and profound.”
What draws you to coming-of-age stories?
I’m riveted by that age and the stakes that you feel at that age. Everything feels like life and death.
I’m also fascinated by the self-consciousness of that age. How awkward you feel, or how you feel like everybody else has their things figured out.
Throughout life, I go through a version of that over and over as I go through big transitions. I feel awkward and 12 again.
There’s something about those feelings that is easy for me to tap into.
The way you portray young girls in your films is perfect. They’re funny, complicated and intelligent. Young girls’ problems are often dismissed as vapid. How do you feel about this perception?
It really bums me out that that is how they’re thought of. In fact, I have to say that one of the things that hurt the most is when someone is trying to compliment the film and they say, “It’s so cute. It’s adorable.”
I just wanna kill myself. [laughter].
Don’t tell me that, because there’s something condescending about it. It’s almost like, “Oh, your little vapid problems, they’re so cute.”
It is a very emotionally intense and mature time period. Middle school is the time when you’re first confronting the difficulties of the adult world.
Totally. That’s the age when you realize the adults in your life aren’t God. They don’t know everything, they’re just people screwing up and trying hard. They don’t know what they’re doing any more than you do.
I remember that being a very scary realization. Barbara, Margaret’s mother, is doing her best, but she’s stumbling through motherhood in a way that I definitely am. I never know if I’m doing a good enough job.
I think this is why it makes perfect sense that at this age, Margaret (and definitely myself) reached out for something greater. We wondered, “Is there anyone making sure that I’m okay?”
TRIBEZA is an Austin publication. How do you like it here?
I love it. I feel at home out here. I’ve been here many times. My brother lives here. My sister-in-law used to live here.
I got off the plane and I had queso immediately because that’s my favorite thing in the entire world. I can’t get it as good in Southern California.
I flew in and went right to Torchy’s.
Lionsgate’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret opened this weekend. Find showings at your local cinema here.