A Wrinkle In Time (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
This is one of the spring's most anticipated new movies. The line begins over there. And the film is going to play really strong with audiences looking for something unique, new, and diverse.
There is real excitement over Ava DuVernay getting the chance to lead a cinematic adaptation of one of the most challenging books ever to be brought to the big screen.
In the leading role, young actress Storm Reid, is a star on the rise, and makes A Wrinkle in Time well worth checking out.
Remember all the times you heard A Wrinkle in Time was an "unfilmmable" book? Well, despite doing a lot of things well, DuVernay may have proven that theory true.
Muddled in the middle and saddled with a convoluted and cumbersome screenplay, A Wrinkle in Time has great visuals and some terrific performances, but those can only take you so far.
A talented filmmaker sometimes comes up short. In the end, this feels like an ambitious film and project that just slipped out of the hands of DuVernay and just doesn't hit the mark.
Ava DuVernay’s risky, noble take on Madeleine L’Engle’s “unfilmmable” best-selling children’s novel, 1962’s A Wrinkle in Time, hits theaters in March 2018 with significant excitement, buzz, and anticipation. DuVernay’s work prior to Wrinkle has been smaller in scope, character-driven, and innately connected to the experience of minority and vulnerable communities. Her films thus far have packed significant punch (Selma, Middle of Nowhere, The 13th). Few are as respected and beloved in the movie business as DuVernay, a trailblazer and groundbreaking filmmaker, who has more than earned the opportunity to lead this $100 million-plus project.
Her dedication to telling stories around themes of justice, equality, activism, and personal restoration makes her connection to A Wrinkle in Time so intriguing. She has made some fascinating casting decisions here, aided by a number of terrific young actors populating the ensemble, and DuVernay’s colorful, expansive vision is without question. Once you settle into the film however, it becomes apparent that despite great drive and determination, this movie somehow slipped out of her grasp.
Often deemed a challenge to bring to the big screen, L’Engle saw a 2003 TV movie adaptation of her novel and declared it “as bad as I thought it would be.” Passing away in 2007, she of course will never see this film, but I have to believe she would find this markedly better. Be that as it may, A Wrinkle in Time, in this presentation, becomes a convoluted, dense movie to sit through. The screenplay by Jennifer Lee (Zootopia, Frozen) and Jeff Stockwell (Bridge to Terabithia) offers viewers no help, once teen protagonist Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is off to find her missing father (Chris Pine), lost somewhere in the universe.
The basic premise is simple enough. Meg’s dad Alex is a scientist who believes he has cracked the code on time travel, with a device known as a Tesseract. That discovery has led to Dad’s four-year disappearance. As Meg makes her way through middle school, with a boyfriend of sorts on one side, Calvin (Levi Miller), a bully on the other (Rowan Blanchard), and a whip-smart, genius, 6-year-old brother at home, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), she is contacted, in her backyard, by a celestial being known as Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon).
Soon, they find a second entity, Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), who speaks only in literary quotes, and then Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), who initially skies over everyone and everything (as Oprah rightfully should, by the way…) before giving platitudes and empowering words of wisdom to MEg whenever and wherever she can.
The 6-year-old brother seems more in tune with things than anyone realizes, which becomes a key component to the film’s second act. The proverbial “wrinkle” comes with the discovery of the “tesser”, the ability to find holes, or shortcuts of sorts, in the space-time continuum that allow you to time travel.
As DuVernay whisks us away to different worlds and landscapes, the movie becomes full of wildly distinctive visuals. The celestial witches take different forms, they find Zach Galifianakis in one of those worlds, and the idea is that each world is designed to draw them closer and closer to reuniting Meg on a journey to reconnect with her father.
The movie struggles to find cohesiveness. Though L’Engle created a richly symbolic and fantastical dystopian universe for her characters to navigate, A Wrinkle in Time struggles with keeping us engaged once Meg begins her journey. Ultimately, the movie hinges on layers and layers of plot to push us along and unfortunately, DuVernay can only do so much in deciphering and decoding a frustrating jumble of expansive explanation and short, stunted reactions.
As I grew more and more frustrated with A Wrinkle in Time, I realized that this is a film that deserves praise for even getting made in the first place. DuVernay is the first African-American woman to receive a $100 million budget and Disney’s full-throated embracing of her tackling this project is significant. The diverse cast, with a young biracial protagonist at the top of the card is going to have significance for a whole lot of people who see themselves for the first time. DuVernay’s pride in making this film has never been in question.
In Storm Reid, just 14 years old, DuVernay has found an actress confident, enigmatic, and illuminating on screen. She is not afraid to dive into a role that requires her to carry significant portions of a blockbuster movie. Ultimately, I found myself just wanting something better built around her.
DuVernay feels overwhelmed here by the scope of the story she is trying to tell. In the quieter moments, the film soars. In the wider, expansive scenes, built on time travel and planetary destinations, A Wrinkle in Time feels lost and unwieldy.
I admire the effort and appreciate the significance of A Wrinkle in Time, but cannot help but be bummed that this never quite works the way DuVernay intended.
Everyone who has an interest to see it, definitely should. Unfortunately, this A Wrinkle in Time may not be quite the thrill ride fans of the book, or all of those anticipating the movie's arrival, was hoping for.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Peña, André Holland, Rowan Blanchard, David Oyelowo, Conrad Roberts, Will McCormack.
Director: Ava DuVernay
Written by: Jennifer Lee, Jeff Stockwell
Based on the novel "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engel
Release Date: March 9, 2018
Walt Disney Pictures