Director: Ava DuVernay
Starring: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Pena.
Written by Jennifer Lee, Jeff Stockwell and (based on the novel) Madeleine L’Engle
Running Time: 109 mins
Release date: 23rd March 2018
There is no denying that A Wrinkle In Time is an important movie. Not only because it’s almost an impossible novel to translate to the big screen because of it’s maths heavy content but because it is the prime example of the changing face of Hollywood; that a black, female director should be in charge of a big budget blockbuster from a major studio and have a girl of colour in the lead. Unfortunately, in attempting to film this unfilmable book, it’s all become a bit of a muddle and what we have is an important failure.
Meg is a young girl whose father, a prominent mathematician and NASA scientist, has disappeared and has been missing for four years. Never giving up hope, Meg and her young brother, Charles Wallace, have to face bullying at their local school for carrying the same incredible levels of intelligence. On the fourth anniversary, they are visited by Mrs Whatist, Mrs Who and Mrs Which, three beings from time who tell Meg that her father is lost in time and she can find him. With her brother and friend, Calvin, in tow, they head off on an adventure to bring her father back.
There is plenty to applaud here. Ava DuVernay, the director of Selma, is a very talented director and so visually, this is a treat. Her use of the camera produces some unusual and interesting shots which, without any special effects, makes the film have a fantasy quality. The effects are eye-catching as Meg and the gang bounce around different dimensions of time.
Where the film really struggles is the plot. The book, by Madeleine L’Engle, is a complex mix of childlike wonder about science, space and time and adventure. Transferring those elements become confused and, in the case of the first hour, slightly dull. The Mrs. is full of riddles and complicated details which they share with Meg but don’t translate as well on screen, leaving the viewer somewhat bemused and muddled. Once the Mrs disappear and we are left with Meg and her team, the film does pick up but by that point, you are less than caring for their exploits.
This is a pity because DuVerny’s intentions seem nothing more than good. This is more than just another crowd filler for the holidays but a love for the source material and for her to change the face of family cinema.
Having said that, the performances are fun. Where else would you expect to see a 50 foot Oprah Winfred? Reese Witherspoon is at her squeakiest as Mrs Whatsit and it’s always a joy to see Gugu Mbatha-Raw on screen in the lesser role of Meg’s mother. Where the film really works is in the performance of Meg by newcomer Storm Reid. She is terrific as this stubborn young girl brimming with determination to find her father. It’s a non-pretentious performance showing maturity and toughness. She has a very bright future ahead of her if she picks the right material.
A Wrinkle In Time may mesmerise its younger audience, which this film is clearly aimed at but might leave adults somewhat bemused. DuVernay is a brilliant director who is passionate about their work and wants to change the world of cinema. I hope that her next projects will do this. I just get the feeling that this won’t be the film but at least she has tried.