Produced by Jim Whitaker, Catherine Hand
Screenplay by Jennifer Lee, Jeff Stockwell
Based on the book by Madeleine L’Engle
Directed by Ava DuVernay
Starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon,
Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña,
Storm Reid, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine
When something is beloved since childhood, sometimes it is hard to appreciate interpretations that mimic feeling but not content.
The book A Wrinkle in Time was originally written in 1962 and has been cherished by young readers for decades.
Impressions of its physics and fantasy heavy themes vary, so it is no surprise that an assessment of Ava Duvernay’s attempt to bring it to the screen is not straightforward.
The film acts as a love letter not to those who grew up with it, but to those who Duvernay hopes to enchant for the first time with its universe.
The story follows thirteen-year-old Meg (Storm Reid) who is having a difficult time dealing with the mysterious disappearance of her scientist father (Chris Pine). When three celestial beings (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling) appear with a mission to save him, Meg, her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and new friend Calvin (Levi Miller) rush off into the unknown to find where in the universe her father has gone.
For a tale about time and space, it suffers somewhat in pacing.
Some parts, such as a few of the world explorations, feel rushed. There is a sense that in a need to get to the next scene full explanations were cut. At an hour and 40 minutes, the movie is an appropriate length for youth, but the 15 minutes that were trimmed would have added much-desired storytelling.
I would love to have stayed and explored just a bit more in the rich and inviting CGI landscapes Meg and her friends visited. As Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) speaks to a field of bright pink flowers in their native language of color, the petals themselves felt anthropomorphised in how vibrantly they interacted with her. There are many little touches of surreal beauty throughout the film that make it clear how unique each corner of the universe is.
The investment of time that was spent learning about the relationship between Mr. Murry (Chris Pine) and Mrs. Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) would have been better served exploring more about Meg.
Though both adults were great in their roles, Storm Reid was a true delight to watch. Her obstinance was fiery and her passion for her family was gripping. But through all that shone a vulnerability that has you constantly rooting for her to see the inner strength that is immediately visible to those around her. Less engaging was Levi Miller as Calvin. His character was given one note: pleasant. With no sharp edges or tests of character, it was hard to see him as anything but a shallow device. Deric McCabe, however, was able to extend himself from charming to insidious and remain believable every step of the way.
Mrs. Which (Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Kaling) were excellently cast. Oprah Winfrey was regal, and emmenated grace and wisdom. Witherspoon was a perfectly bright and chatty choice. But it’s Kaling’s turn as the ever-quoting Mrs. Who that may be most surprising, as it is a departure from the ditzy character we’re used to seeing her play on the small screen. There was a dignity in her performance that showed more of a range than her previous work.
This movie will satisfy those who are purist in feelings and tone, but may be lacking for anyone who is looking for a shot-for-shot interpretation.
The book has always been ahead of its audience, but the film is destined to be a favorite for a younger crowd.
As adults, we’ve had our experience with this charming tale.
Understanding that, Duvernay has done a masterful job crafting a message for each 13-year-old girl who needs to be reminded how universally amazing they are.