ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
1970 – 11-year-old Margaret Simon (Abby Ryder Fortson) is arriving back to her home in New York City after spending the summer at camp. She lives with her parents Herb (Benny Safdie) and Barbara (Rachel McAdams), and they are visited by Herb’s mother Sylvia (Kathy Bates). When Margaret enters her apartment, she learns that the family is moving to New Jersey since Herb got a promotion. Margaret is upset to leave behind the only home she’s ever known, but her family assures her that change will be good for her.
Margaret is Jewish on Herb’s side and Christian on Barbara’s side. She frequently prays to God and always starts by asking “Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret.” Upon arriving in Jersey, Margaret meets a girl in the neighborhood, Nancy Wheeler (Elle Graham). She tells Margaret that there was a flyer about her moving to town, and she invites Margaret to go under the sprinklers at her house. While there, Nancy comments on Margaret having a flat chest and never having kissed a boy. Margaret meets Nancy’s annoying older brother Evan (Landon Baxter) and his friend Moose Freed (Aidan Wotjak-Hissong). Margaret develops a crush on Moose and even brings up to her dad that Moose offers to cut their lawn for five bucks.
Margaret starts the sixth grade in the same class as Nancy, plus Nancy’s other two friends Janie Loomis (Amari Price) and Gretchen Potter (Katherine Kupferer). A taller and more developed girl, Laura Danker (Isol Young), gets mocked for her height, and Nancy spreads a rumor that Laura lets Evan and Moose feel her up. The other girls (minus Margaret) have a crush on Philip Leroy (Zackary Brooks).
After school, Nancy invites the other girls to her house for a secret club. Among their rules is having to wear bras and talking about the boys they like. When Margaret asks Barbara if she can buy a bra, Barbara seems hesitant but takes her daughter out to buy one. The store employee measures Margaret’s chest and gives her a training bra. When Margaret sees her friends again, Janie and Gretchen are also wearing training bras, which makes Margaret feel less insecure about herself. Still, the girls do an exercise and chant (“We must! We must! We must increase the bust!”) to help themselves develop faster.
Margaret’s teacher Mr. Benedict (Echo Kellum) gives the class a research assignment. She talks to him about not knowing what to do research on until she mentions her mixed religion upbringing, also noting that her parents told her she can choose her own religion when she is an adult. Mr. Benedict notes that Margaret has mentioned never meeting Barbara’s parents, so she later asks Barbara why. She tells her daughter that her parents, being devout Christians, did not approve of her marrying a Jewish man, so they disowned her and have not spoken to her since.
Margaret spends a weekend in the city with Sylvia. She takes her granddaughter to temple so that Margaret can get a better understanding of Judaism. Meanwhile, Barbara tries to get more involved in the community and PTA, meeting with Nancy’s mother Jan (Kate MacCluggage) and signing herself up for a number of groups.
Margaret and her friends start expecting their first period to happen. Gretchen tells the girls about getting it first, while Nancy sends a postcard to Margaret while on a trip with her parents, claiming that she has also gotten it.
A weird boy from Margaret’s class, Norman Fisher (Simms May), invites the whole class to a birthday party at his house. The kids reluctantly go because Norman’s parents have money and the other parents make the kids go. The kids start to play Spin The Bottle, with Norman kissing Janie on the cheek at first, until Nancy changes the game to “Two Minutes in the Closet”. Laura is the first to go in with a shorter boy before Margaret and Philip go in together. Philip kisses Margaret twice, and she feels excited to have had her first kiss.
Margaret later goes with Nancy and her mom to a restaurant. Nancy retreats to the bathroom and starts crying, asking Margaret to get her mother. Jan goes to help Nancy and realizes she is having her period for the first time, which also makes Margaret realize Nancy lied about already getting it.
At school, Margaret is put into a group project with Laura, Norman, and Philip, to her chagrin. When Philip comments on Margaret’s chest, she decides in one of her prayers that she hates him, as well as Nancy for lying to her, and the other kids in her group.
Margaret and Laura are working together in the library. Margaret gets frustrated with Laura and snaps at her, making comments based off what Nancy said. Laura storms out and says that people only spread rumors about her because of her height and body. Margaret then sees Laura go to a church confessional and tries to go confess to the priest as well, but she has nothing to say. It also makes her realize that she doesn’t really want to be friends with Nancy anymore.
Margaret plans to go to Florida for her spring break to be with Sylvia. However, Barbara, who had sent out a card to her parents, gets a message saying that they are trying to put their past behind them and want to see her and meet Margaret. Their arrival coincides with Margaret’s trip, forcing her to cancel it to meet her other grandparents.
Barbara’s parents, Paul and Mary Hutchins (Gary Houston and Mia Dillon), arrive and meet Margaret. Sylvia shows up along with a male companion, though she is understandably unhappy with Paul and Mary over their treatment of her son. After dinner, the subject of Sylvia taking Margaret to temple is brought up, which leads to an argument between Margaret’s parents and grandparents over Margaret’s choice of religion. Margaret yells at the adults and says that the debate is stupid and that she doesn’t even believe in God.
Margaret hands in her research paper to Mr. Benedict, saying she feels uncertain about herself. After some self-reflection, Margaret reconciles with her parents and Sylvia. At the end of the school year, Margaret decides to befriend Laura and dance with her at a school event, with Janie joining them as well. Margaret also tells Mr. Benedict that he’s a great teacher. She also makes plans to spend time with Moose, as he is now cutting their lawn.
At home, Margaret gets her first period. Barbara comes in to help, and the two share an embrace as Margaret is proud and relieved. Margaret then starts praying again, thanking God for everything that has happened.
In 1970, 11-year-old Margaret Simon and her parents move from New York City to New Jersey when her father Herb gets promoted. Despite her reservations, Margaret quickly makes friends with neighbor girl Nancy Wheeler and classmates Janie and Gretchen. Margaret deals with adolescence, boys, and religion, as Herb is Jewish and her mother Barbara is Christian. She frequently prays to God and seeks out guidance.
Margaret realizes Nancy is not such a great friend after she lies about getting her period and also makes fun of a tall girl from class named Laura, spreading rumors about her and making her feel bad. Additionally, when Margaret plans to go visit her grandmother Sylvia in Florida, Barbara's parents Paul and Mary (who previously disowned her for marrying a Jewish man) decide to visit at the same time. When Sylvia makes an appearance, it leads to an argument over Margaret's religious upbringing, until she decides she doesn't believe in God.
Near the end of the school year, Margaret reconciles with her family and becomes friends with Laura and a boy named Moose that she has a crush on. Margaret gets her period on the last day of school and tells Barbara about it. She also resumes praying and thanks God for everything.