Rachel McAdams Says 'Are You There God, It's Me Margaret' Is the Perfect Story for Any Generation

Judy Blume's beloved book hits the big screen five decades after its initial publication.

Rachel McAdams as Barbara Dimon

Dana Hawley

Judy Blume once said that her book Are You There God? It's Me Margaret was impossible to adapt into a film. It only took five decades to get her to change her mind and now, believe it or not, the beloved author says that the Are You There God? It's Me Margaret movie is (gasp) better than the book. Fans will get to see for themselves when it arrives in theaters on Apr. 28.

"I may be the only book writer who has ever said that the movie is better than my book, and I mean it,” Blume said at Variety's Power of Women luncheon earlier this year. “This wonderful group has given me the gift of lifetime.”

That gift comes courtesy of director Kelly Fremon Craig and Rachel McAdams, who stars in the film as Margaret's mother, Barbara Simon. And even though the source material is something that almost every woman has a connection to, the actress confessed that she hadn't read it as a child.

"I actually had not read the book growing up. I read a lot of Judy Blume when I was younger, but I had not read Margaret, which I was sad about when I took on the project," McAdams says, though it's understandable when Blume's impressive oeuvre includes titles like Tales of a Fourth Grade NothingDeenie, and Blubber, all of which have become classics in the world of young adult literature. But having fresh eyes on Margaret ended up working in McAdams's favor. She's a mother of two now and thanks to that life experience, she could identify with Margaret and Barb.

Rachel McAdams as Barbara Simon

Dana Hawley

"When I did read the book in preparation, I realized I'm playing the mom and I'm a mom now, and I can experience this book through Barb's eyes and focus on her," McAdams explains. "But what was also interesting was that I related to Margaret, in my 40s."

That may seem strange, but thanks to the timelessness of Blume's work and the fact McAdams fits squarley into the role of Barb and the underlying nostalgia of the film, it all came together to create something magical.

"I was completely transported to that time in my life again and went on the ride that everybody talks about going on with this book in my own personal way," she says.

The story of Margaret growing up, facing puberty, and dealing with a move from the big city to the suburbs is so universal that it's surprising to learn that the film (which stars Abby Ryder Fortson as the titular Margaret and Kathy Bates as her grandmother) never actually got made, even with a rabid fan base and Blume being well aware that everyone wanted to see the story on the big screen. 

I think this movie could come out at any time and it would be the right time.

In addition to the now-iconic "we must increase our bust" line and Margaret's internal conflict in choosing between the Jewish faith of her dad's family and her mother's Christian background (though things are blurred there, too), the novel tackles issues like women's health and the fact that talking about things like periods and changing bodies is as controversial in 2023 as it was in 1970.

"I think this movie could come out at any time and it would be the right time. I think it's such an honest portrayal of something that most people go through and can relate to the universal experience of growing up and feeling like nothing fits and you don't understand what's happening to you," McAdams says of the film's depiction of growing up. "I think it's a great time for a story that's pretty honest about childhood and puberty and what it is to be growing up and trying to find yourself and how flawed that can be and hilarious and awkward."

Rachel McAdams as Barbara Simon and Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret Simon

Dana Hawley

The film will undoubtedly transport viewers to the '70s (and right back to those awkward years where they probably encountered Margaret and her classmates for the first time), but McAdams insists that the themes of the film aren't tied to any specific era, even though the style of the '70s seems to be very much at the forefront of everything now (blame Daisy Jones and the Six). 

"I mean, what's old is new again, a lot of the clothes I was wearing as the character I would wear, some of them were actually vintage. Some of them were right off the shelves at the mall at that time. But then you get into it and '70s interior style is back and there's lots of macramé and things that were around in the 2000s," McAdams points out. But deeper than that, with new headlines being made every day in regards to reproductive rights and women's health, she explains that bringing things like puberty and menstruation away from the world of secrets and whispers is important for everyone. 

"There's still a sort of constant chatter about what women can and cannot do with their bodies, what they have the right to when it comes to their bodies. That's still very much in the fore," she says.

Rachel McAdams as Barbara Dimon

Dana Hawley

Still, McAdams, being a mom herself, thinks it's important for the conversations to be had. At the same time, she acknowledges that it's not easy for anyone.

"I think parents are scared to have these conversations, like their kids are suddenly going to become these sex-crazed people or something if they understand bodies and how sex works," she notes. "I think that conversation only leads to more understanding, less guesswork, more facts. Transparency is a good thing, but we're still working away at that. I hope it continues in that direction. I hope this film can make a small dent in that conversation that's very necessary."

Macramé and menstruation? It's all there in the movie, just like it is in real life. It was so real, in fact, that McAdams recognized one of the pieces on set as something she had in her home growing up.

"It didn't feel overly period. And I know, Kelly, the director, didn't want it to be too much, so she wanted the feelings of nostalgia," McAdams says before pointing out one major difference that comes with setting a movie in the '70s. "She wanted the lack of technology that it was a little bit of a different kind of childhood Margaret was having to today."

McAdams goes on to say that while a world without smartphones may look like a completely foreign concept to some people, there's enough in the film to make it relatable to anyone and everyone, whether it's a prop or, well, puberty. "She also wanted it to be relatable and feel like this is a story that could be happening today as well, which it could," McAdams explains. "The sofa that Barb has is very similar to a sofa that my parents had that I actually took to college with me. So, there was some nice trips down memory lane on the set."

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