A Wrinkle in Time
Directed by Ava DuVernay
Written by Jennifer Lee based on “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle
Starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Pena, Storm Reid, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine
I’m learning that the emotional baggage we bring to a movie, reflects what we get out of it. This is true of any interaction we have with each other as well as the art we appreciate. One of the most unique aspects of Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” which opens this weekend, is how relatable it is to everyday people even if you bring the most negative of impressions towards it.
Based on Madeline L’Engle’s children’s novel of the same name, Ms. DuVernay taps into her inner child as Meg Murry (Storm Reid) and her younger brother, Charles Wallce (Deric McCabe) search for their long lost father, Dr. Alex Murry (Chris Pine) who gets lost after an experiment goes wrong. Dr. Kate Murry is played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Helping the kids on their journey are Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling). Bringing balance to the universe is The Happy Medium played by Zach Galafianakis, while Michael Pena plays Red.
The screenplay by Jennifer Lee taps into very Disney-esque elements while Ms. Duvernay brings her own sensibilities to the story. As happens when a book is translated into a script, sequences get left out while other sequences might be tightened up to develop a strong character. As someone who hasn’t read the book, I can’t tell you what they carried over, or left behind.
What I can share is that the story is uneven. We do get Meg’s full arc and it’s a lovely one filled with a solid life lesson. Deric McCabe is stellar as Charles Wallace, with his innocence acting as a cover for a deep rooted intellect along with compassion. The supporting cast of Ms. Winfrey, Ms. Witherspoon and Mr. Galifianakis is exceptional. Yet, their presence in the film drifts off towards the end of the second act. This is a natural place for that send-off, yet it makes their presence in the film feel incomplete. At the same time, they are the best parts of who Meg is; she just chose not to accept them.
Another misstep is in the character of Red. I liked Mr. Pena’s take on the character, but he is on screen for such a small amount of time that I almost wish we had gotten something akin to The Nothing from “The Never Ending Story”.
Despite the danger to our characters and their adventures, I didn’t feel like the consequences of their journey or actions were presented as well as they could have been. Again, this is not the fault of Ms. DuVernay or the script. It is more a function of what elements they took from a rich, detailed novel that so many generations have come to love. The visual effects carried most of the danger effectively, though there were certain effects that became jarring, taking me out of the film.
In the end, “A Wrinkle in Time” will appeal to families with older children. There are some dark elements that might affect younger children. The messages in the film hit me front and center and made me realize that I have potential on my own journey. Perhaps you’ll choose to share in the journey and maybe even discover something about yourself. I know I did.
Rating 2 out of 4 stars