Advertisement

Nominated for Nothing: Are you there, Oscars? Justice for “It’s Me, Margaret”

The Oscars overlooked Kelly Fremon Craig’s heartfelt coming-of-age film, based on the beloved Judy Blume novel.

They were destined to score zero Academy Awards, but they won our attention throughout a year (and awards season) like no other. Ahead of the 96th Oscars ceremony on March 10, Entertainment Weekly is breaking down the year's best movies, performances, and directorial achievements that were nominated for nothing.

The film:  Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret may have taken more than 50 years to get to the big screen, but Kelly Fremon Craig's smart adaptation was well worth the wait.

Written by YA legend Judy Blume, the original novel has long been a literary classic, and since its publication in 1970, multiple generations of preteen readers have fallen in love with heroine Margaret Simon and her messy attempts to navigate puberty. (Just ask any reader if they still remember the book’s iconic chant: “We must, we must, we must increase our bust.”) Given the book’s near-legendary status, Blume has been particularly protective over its rights, rebuffing multiple adaptation offers throughout the years. She finally acquiesced in 2018 after a pitch from writer-director Craig and legendary producer James L. Brooks, who previously teamed up for the excellent 2016 film The Edge of Seventeen. It turns out that Blume’s trust was well-placed: Craig’s film is clever, heartfelt, and deeply hilarious, the rare adaptation that captures the book’s original charms while also forging something fresh.

Dana Hawley/Lionsgate Rachel McAdams and Abby Ryder Forston in 'Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret'
Dana Hawley/Lionsgate Rachel McAdams and Abby Ryder Forston in 'Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret'

Rather than updating the book for modern audiences, Craig preserves the book’s 1970 setting, and the film stars Ant-Man actress Abby Ryder Fortson as the eponymous 11-year-old heroine, whose family relocates from New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey. Not only does she have to navigate a new school and new neighbors, but she finds herself grappling with all the ugly aspects of growing up — like periods, crushes, and questions about religion. She’s surrounded by artist mom Barbara (a phenomenal Rachel McAdams), goofy dad Herb (Benny Safdie), and her doting grandmother Sylvia (Kathy Bates), who lives back in New York and tries to guilt trip her family into visiting as frequently as possible.

Part of what made Blume’s book such a hit was how universal Margaret’s story felt, and Fortson nails the book’s relatable tone, imbuing Margaret with warmth and curiosity. Many of the scenes are played for laughs — like when Margaret tries to buy pads for the first time, only to be horrified by the prospect of a male cashier. But Craig never treats her preteen heroine as the butt of the joke, instead approaching all of her worries with empathy and nuance. After all, when you’re 11, problems like crushes and periods really do feel like the end of the world, something that Craig captures perfectly.

Why it wasn’t nominated: Even with rave reviews and a stellar 99 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret failed to earn a single Oscar nomination. With an early premiere in April 2023, the film debuted much earlier than other award season contenders, leaving it overshadowed by newer, starrier releases. Still, as the Oscar nominations date crept closer, some prognosticators hoped that Craig might squeeze in for Best Adapted Screenplay, or McAdams might land a spot in the Best Supporting Actress category. Indeed, McAdams’ warm, understated performance is one of the film’s highlights, and Craig’s script turns her into as much of a heroine as her daughter, following her as she grapples with her own parental conflicts and PTA mean girls. Some of the best scenes in the film are the quiet conversations between Margaret and her mom, as Barbara reluctantly opens up about her own fractured relationship with her parents.

Ultimately, however, the Oscars totally skipped over Margaret. Perhaps it’s not a surprise: The Academy has historically overlooked many small-scale, coming-of-age stories, particularly those focused on young women. Think of past snubs such as Leave No Trace, Eighth Grade, or Booksmart. (Greta Gerwig projects Lady Bird and Little Women seem to be the rare exception, with both films scoring multiple nominations.) Sadly, some Oscar voters may have dismissed Margaret as disposable preteen fare, even though the story is specifically crafted to resonate with viewers of all ages.

Why history will remember it better than the Academy did: Blume’s book didn’t become a classic overnight, and hopefully, the film version of Margaret will eventually achieve the same deserved status. The author herself has even declared that the film is better than the book — high praise from one of literature’s most beloved writers.

There’s also something refreshing about how deftly Margaret tackles taboo topics. Even though it’s been more than 50 years since the book was published, it’s still one of the most frequently banned children’s books according to the American Library Association. Like the novel, the film handles topics like menstruation and religion with frank but age-appropriate honesty, something that’s missing from most other Hollywood films. At a time when legislators across the country have attempted to ban elementary school students from even mentioning their periods, Margaret’s frank discussion of the topic feels radical and important.

But above all, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is simply a delightful watch. Fortson’s heroine is awkwardly relatable, whether she’s shopping for her first bra or fretting over a basement game of spin-the-bottle. There’s a reasons mothers have been sharing Blume’s book with their daughters for more than five decades. Now, they have an equally charming film to bond over, too.

EW's countdown to the 2024 Oscars has everything you're looking for, from our expert predictions and in-depth Awardist interviews with this year's nominees to nostalgia and our takes on the movies and actors we wish had gotten more Oscars love. You can check it all out at The Awardist.

Related content:

 

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.