A Wrinkle in Time (2018)
The low scores from iMDb are a bit absurd, but then again, user reviews are rarely representative of the actual film and are reactions mostly from people who hate what a film is. In Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic children’s book A Wrinkle in Time, social outcast Meg (Storm Reid in a story anchoring lead debut) is in constant conflict since her father (Chris Pine) disappeared four years before. On the anniversary of his disappearance, an enigmatic woman known as Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon LOVING her role) visits Meg and her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe, the definition of precocious) and mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) to get the children’s vital assistance in saving their father and the universe from a growing darkness. Swept through a wrinkle in time by Mrs Whatsit, her quoting cohort Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), and the queen mother Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey, taking what I can only imagine is her true form), the team seeks answers through a series of adventures following their father’s fading footsteps.
Visually, a bit too close to Eyesore in Wonderland, the design team seems to aim for quantity over refinement. A vibrant collection of foreign worlds and overlaid effects in New Zealand, the worlds created are fanciful but not particularly refined. A bit of Seuss, a bit of Carroll, a bit of Star Wars; the styles aren’t necessarily clashing, but the variety makes the story a little bit less cohesive as you’re always trying to catch up on which effects are being utilized next. DuVernay lacks the subtlety or style of her other works, but the Disneyification of her directorial choices and lack of character development leave her plan for a multicultural retelling of the story with a rather flat result. Costume designer Paco Delgado (Les Miserables, The Danish Girl) provides a got-dressed-in-the-dark couture for the Mrs’s, each one a mosaic of time that is both lovely and garrish. DP Tobias Schliessler leaves the film with clumsy shots unless he is allowed to pull back for a wide angle to capture the visuals; he should really avoid the closeup as they are abused for lack of more interesting capture.
Those critiques aside, A Wrinkle in Time is not a bad film; it’s more just lackluster, particularly for coming from a talent like DuVernay. The Mrs’s are having a grand time in their roles, all bejeweled and glamorous. Witherspoon’s unstoppable honesty is hilarious. Winfrey is elegance, as usual. Kaling is soft and charming. Storm Reid commands the screen; she keeps the boys’ silliness in check as she tumbles through her adventure. More than anything, this film is valuable for its perspective and morals. The casting of a biracial family allows for a modernity that expresses the values and love within this family, adding peculiarity to the father’s disappearance. Also, any film that expresses the importance of strength and resilience as well as the importance of science and learning is vital in these rather stupid times. So, let’s take an extra ounce of that post-Black Panther fervor and share it with DuVernay’s dull but ambitious adaptation.