2023 TV & Movie Reviews: Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret / Jury Duty / John Mulaney’s Baby J / Enys Men

Adolescence, addiction, elaborate pranks and Enys Men. Whatever the hell those are.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret

Rachel McAdams as Barbara Dimon and Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret Simon in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Photo Credit: Dana Hawley

I’ve never read Judy Blume‘s beloved novel about an 11-year-old girl anxiously awaiting her period. Still, from what I understand, it means a lot to many people, mainly women who grew up with the text. Coming-of-age stories are a dime a dozen, and most cruise through the typical tropes and beats expected of them. While I can’t comment on the novel, Kelly Fremon Craig (Edge of Seventeen) and James L. Brooks’ adaptation never feels forced or contrived. It does hit several of the typical tropes and beats, but only sometimes in the way you expect. There are no typical mom/bully/friend characters in Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, all the characters are multi-dimensional and often surprise you with their choices. There are also no easy answers anywhere in this movie. There’s also never a point where it doesn’t have a sense of humor. This is the funniest movie of 2023 thus far because jokes aren’t manufactured into the text. The jokes come from the characters being their odd selves, each inhabited by an outstanding performance. Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie (one of the brothers who wrote/directed Uncut Gems) are solid as Margaret’s parents, and Kathy Bates is a no-brainer casting choice as Margaret’s grandmother. However, it’s the child cast that impresses you the most. There are too many to name, but besides Abby Ryder Fortson in a career-starting performance as Margaret, the real standout here is Elle Graham as Margaret’s quirky next-door neighbor friend, Nancy Wheeler (no, not that Nancy Wheeler), who likes to brag about how she developed breasts first out of anyone in the sixth grade. What strikes me most about this adaptation is that it’s heartwarming without being cynical or cloyingly sweet. Characters that stand in the protagonists’ way never become exaggerated movie bullies. This movie is for kids and adults of all ages because it captures the universal experience of growing up. It doesn’t exactly break new ground for coming-of-age films. How even could you at this point? But it stands as one of the best cases of understanding the assignment. That’s what your sixth grader will probably say about this movie. Grade: B+ (In Theaters)

Jury Duty

This image released by Amazon Freevee shows Edy Modica, from left, Mekki Leeper, Susan Berger, Ross Kimball, and Ronald Gladden in a scene from the series “Jury Duty.” (Amazon Freevee via AP)

I never thought in a million years that FreeVee would produce one of the year’s most inventive and entertaining shows, but here we all are. Jury Duty will often be compared to Nathan Fielder‘s The Rehearsal, which is fair but only partially accurate. That show is far more awkward and harder to watch than the absolute breeze Jury Duty is. That show is also far more clever and innovative. Even though Jury Duty is an elaborate social experiment, its intent is very straightforward. However, both shows are about tricking a mark with a false representation of reality. In Jury Duty‘s case, the mark is 30-year-old Ronald Gladden – a nice, quiet, and exceptionally regular dude. Throughout eight half-hour episodes, a mock trial plays out. Gladden and a strong ensemble of barely known actors, improvisers, and comedians (PLUS James Marsden playing himself) must deliberate on a case while dealing with each juror’s unique brand of eccentric behavior. There are a lot of effective bits here, and the character work is exceptional from every actor involved. There are also, to my surprise, a few genuinely touching moments., but the most impressive aspect of Jury Duty is that it never jumps the shark. It comes close a few times, and you can see how tempting it is for everyone involved to go a few steps over the line of credibility. Still, all the actors manage to sustain the illusion. Obviously, creators Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (writers from The Office) can’t follow this up with Jury Duty Season 2 (the cat’s out of the bag). Still, I’d be shocked if they don’t try switching up “jury duty” for some other government-mandated, different but comparable activity. Perhaps charging a regular dude with a fake crime and having that character do Community Service while encountering challenging and ridiculous situations. I strongly recommend this to anyone because it’s a fun and easy watch. It’s also over before it has a chance to overstay its welcome. (think of court pun). Grade: A- (FreeVee)

John Mulaney’s Baby J

Painful honesty has always made for the most resonant comedy, whether for screenwriters or stand-up comedians. Here, one of the best stand-up performers of the last twenty years, John Mulaney, has successfully funneled his arduous journey with addiction and recovery into 80 minutes of bracing honesty that also remembers it needs to be funny. It’s not a perfect special – it doesn’t hold a candle to New in Town or The Comeback Kid – and there are a few bits in Baby J that go on way longer than they need to — the Al Pacino bit, in particular, seems to overshoot its sell-by date by two full minutes. However, four or five genuinely unique angles give Mulaney the ammo he needs for some truly killer runs. His comment about how surreal it is to watch Fred Armisen not do a character or voice but just earnestly speak at you for five minutes is one of the funniest things I’ve heard all year. Mulaney expresses great gratitude for the twelve friends who comprised his intervention but is candid enough to admit that eight didn’t need to be there. He also tells an uncomfortable story about buying a Rolex and then pawning it for drugs, losing $6000 in the process, and perfectly caps the tale off by saying, “I know this is bad but imagine how bad the other stories are that I feel comfortable enough to tell you this one.” Generally, I’m not a huge fan of people using performance arts as a form of therapy; more often than not, it disregards the audience paying for and consuming the product you put out. Still, Mulaney found a way to make it work for him and the audience. That’s really hard, not half as hard as conquering addiction. Grade: B+ (Netflix)

Enys Men

Look, the “elevated horror” movement gets a lot of guff, and I’m here to say that I sometimes enjoy obscure movies, even ones that are more than a little up their own ass. I mean, David Lynch is one of my favorite filmmakers, and I had a great time watching Beau Is AfraidEnys Men is an entirely different story, though, because, beyond the novelty of watching something shot today on 16mm, this movie has absolutely nothing going for it. A zero-dimensional lead character, barely any dialogue, and weird flower shit that never gets developed in any way that’s remotely satisfying, but hey, “the vibes,” dude. Enys Men doesn’t even deliver on thrills and chills. At least Skinamarink, a similarly obscure slog through elevated horror, effectively set up scares and got under our skin. Enys Men looks like B-roll footage from a 1970s European nature documentary. It’s boring, folks. It’s about as fun as spending all day at the DMV. But hey, it looks gorgeous. During a kickback, the film would make a pretty good screensaver for your Vizio. As a cinematic experience, it’s rather flaccid. Grade: C- (VOD)


Evil Dead RiseIn Theaters

Beau Is AfraidIn Theaters & IMAX

Renfield In Theaters

Super Mario Bros In Theaters

Dungeons & DragonsIn Theaters

John Wick Chapter 4In Theaters

Beef Netflix

RuPaul’s Drag Race (Season 15)VOD

Abbott Elementary (Season 2)Hulu

Of An Age Peacock

The Bear (Season 1)Hulu

SwarmAmazon Prime

The Last of Us (Season 1) HBOMax

Poker Face (Season 1) Peacock

Creed IIIIn Theaters & VOD

Scream 6 Paramount+

Milf Manor (Season 1)Discovery+

Return to SeoulVOD

Cocaine BearPeacock

Knock at the CabinPeacock


She SaidPeacock


Violent NightPeacock

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