There’s an elite list of movies that universally understand growing up and girlhood to the T, including Bo Burnham’s 8th Grade and Fox 2000’s Ramona And Beezus. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret definitely joins the ranks. It’s a family drama that is simultaneously poignant and sweet, making it the perfect slice-of-life story we need every once in a while to be reminded of the smaller things in life. This adaptation of the Judy Blume novel follows the story of 11-year-old Margaret whose life is upended one summer after she returns from camp. We see her navigate through the ups and downs of moving, adolescence and the most crucial of it all, her search for God.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?
Margaret returns from camp one summer and is told by her grandmother that she’s going to be moving from New York to New Jersey. Her father Herb has just got a promotion and so things seem to be getting better for the family, but Margaret isn’t happy leaving her grandmother and her friends behind in New York. When they arrive there, she’s immediately invited over by a neighbor named Nancy who is keen on having Margaret join her posse of girlfriends. Through Nancy, Margaret makes friends, and she finds New Jersey better than she had expected. Every night, Margaret talks to God and asks about the things she wants to happen for her. Margaret has a Jewish dad and a Christian mother, but Margaret herself is free of religion. This is because Barbara’s parents were unwilling to have a Jew son-in-law, so they disowned her when she chose to be with him.
At school, Margaret gets asked by her teacher why she wrote that she hated “religious holidays” in her paper to which Margaret replies it’s because she doesn’t celebrate any of them. Margaret hadn’t been thinking about her grandparents until then, but she suddenly asks her mother why she’s never met them. Barbara tells her it’s because they weren’t accepting of Herb, so they stayed away from them all those years. Margaret can’t believe Barbara’s parents could do such a thing, but she is deeply understanding of her mother’s situation. Barbara used to be an art teacher, but the move has given her the opportunity to stay home and get closer to Margaret. This also opens up the doors for her to join all the committees that she can that are set up by the PTA.
A big part of Margaret’s headspace is taken up by the idea of puberty and getting your period. Margaret has a feeling that she’s a late bloomer and prays to God that it’s not the case. Her friends and she have a secret society, which is essentially led by Nancy who is a tamer version of a class bully. Nancy is always making fun of the kid who has already grown breasts, she’s not the best influence on Margaret, but Margaret does get to explore a lot of “teenage” things with Nancy and the girls. Margaret goes to see her grandmother back in New York and spends some time with her. At that particular time, everything seems to be going swimmingly for Margaret, so she’s happy with her relationship with God, her version of God anyway. In school, the whole class is meant to do a year-long research project and Margaret’s teacher suggests she do it on religion because it is something he wants her to explore.
Margaret doesn’t love the idea at first, but we soon see her show interest in the Temple and the Church. On her visit to New York, she asks her grandmother to take her to the Temple and Sylvia gladly does. Margaret is looking for a “feeling” at these places of worship. She doesn’t feel God in the Temple and when she visits the Church with her black friend, even though she enjoys it more, she doesn’t feel God there either. In the meanwhile, Barbara’s alone time and Margaret’s questions may have provoked her to write a New Year’s letter to her parents because she misses them. Things start to take a turn when Margaret learns about periods in school, and she hopes and prays she doesn’t get it too late in life. One of the girls quickly gets her period after the class discussion and soon enough, Nancy confesses that she got it too. At the same time, Margaret misses her grandmother and is beginning to get hormonal about things. Soon, she finds that Nancy lied about her period and everything about her New Jersey experience begins to weigh down on her. Nancy is an interesting character because she is a reflection of a lot of young girls who use bullying as a tool to get over their jealousy.
Margaret is desperate to escape and decides to go meet her grandmother who is in Florida. Her parents agree and give her a ticket for her birthday. But, Barbara gets a reply from her parents at the same time, and they say they’re going to visit them. Because they’re especially excited to meet their granddaughter, Margaret can’t go to Florida.
Ending Explained: Does Everything Get Better For Margaret?
An upset Margaret begins to act out with her classmates and soon realizes that she’s been mean for no reason. She finds herself lost and hating everybody when it’s time for her grandparents to arrive. Things go well in the beginning until Sylvia shows up too. Everybody has an awkward interaction, but Margaret seems to warm up to her grandparents until they ask the big question of whether Margaret has been going to Sunday school. Margaret is stunned by the question but before she can answer, Sylvia butts in and tells them that Margaret has been to the Temple with her and is therefore, Jewish. The argument grows and Margaret’s parents get involved. They’re extremely upset that the grandparents would behave in such a way when they had strictly decided that Margaret would get to choose her own religion as an adult. The argument stops when Margaret screams at all of them to stop and announces that she doesn’t believe in God, so none of this matters at all. She decides to use this experience in her research paper and writes to Mr. Benedict, her teacher, that she understands that religion is the cause of pain and fighting, and no matter how much she prays, things keep getting worse. She realizes the only person who can help her is Margaret herself because there’s nobody else listening.
Things start to change for the better again when Barbara apologizes to Margaret about having her grandparents over and starting this whole mess. Not only Margaret but even Barbara finally decides to accept herself and start doing the things she loves again. In the same way, Margaret chooses to hang out with the kid she was previously making fun of because she realizes that they’re all the same. In the end, Margaret’s biggest wish comes true, and she gets her period which is a very affirmative experience for her and her mother. Finally, Margaret understands that she can feel God on her own and that’s the experience she chooses for herself. The movie ends with Margaret thanking God for everything, the good and the bad. It’s a very personal relationship for her and that’s what makes it worthwhile.