Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time is a film of a rather significant first, because it is the first film with a budget of over $100 million to have been directed by an African-American woman. While it’s certainly admirable on Ava DuVernay’s end that she managed to get this made, unfortunately talking about the film itself will be a whole other story. The film’s social significance cannot be overstated but because of that whole other story regarding the actual quality of the film, it also sets a worrying note for WOC filmmakers working in Hollywood. It’s worrying because of the possibility that this film will end up being weaponized against them, especially when it isn’t so much a failure as said concept would end up making it out to be.
Based on the novel by Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time stars Storm Reid as Meg Murry, a young girl whose father had disappeared four years prior as he was on his own journey to go beyond the galaxies. As she begins to embark on a quest to search for her father, she travels not without the help of her younger brother, a fellow classmate, and three astral travellers known as Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling). But whatever more you feel that this story should be carrying on the spot, it feels so distinctly lacking – which is a big part of the problem. You can already see that an admirable intent is coming about from what DuVernay wishes to convey through Meg’s own journey through different dimensions but it’s disappointing how empty it all feels.
I’m not in a position to talk about how well does this capture the novel, given as I had never read it, but I was never bored watching A Wrinkle in Time. I was never bored, but whatever momentum I could only imagine the premise was suppose to carry, is absent because there’s really nothing to feel. It isn’t the fault of Ava DuVernay, whose direction evokes a sense of passion trying to get this story onto the big screen, but rather the script, which leaves so much feeling underdeveloped. It feels like it’s being told in broad strokes, rushing from one idea to the next, only weakening the effect of its message. Sure, it’s something that we’d seen before, but when we’re only left with broad strokes of the message there’s no impact coming behind because it just keeps everything at mere surface level.
Despite the obvious narrative frustrations coming along the way, I’d like to offer my own praise for the performances of the general cast, particularly Storm Reid as Meg Murry. But for as much as I would only imagine that she has a bright future coming ahead of her, I loved how DuVernay portrayed the mother-father relationship between Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Chris Pine – and was rather disappointed that the script didn’t touch upon that angle more. The Misses are fine enough as they are, but never really feel like characters but rather present to explain the elaborate nature of this universe rather than to leave a mark behind. Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey are sort of just the same as they’ve always been, but Mindy Kaling turned out to be more entertaining than I’d have expected – and for as engaging as the performances of the supporting cast can be, it’s disappointing that they have so little material to work with.
A Wrinkle in Time is an accomplished effort, but also one that never truly reaches the heights of what its indisputable importance would leave behind. The universe that Ava DuVernay creates in here is a beautiful one, but never one that feels nearly as dazzling as it should be. This is a film that works one angle yet the other it seems to have so little to offer. It’s a film that presents an admirable message for the generations to follow especially because of the diversity present within this story, but also one that seems to go along with it in the broadest strokes possible. There’s so much good and so much bad, but for as much as all the good warrants it worth a viewing, the bad comes along and keeps it from moving further.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Directed by Ava DuVernay
Screenplay by Jennifer Lee, Jeff Stockwell, from the novel by Madeleine L’Engle
Produced by Jim Whitaker, Catherine Hand
Starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Storm Reid, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine, David Oyelowo
Release Year: 2018
Running Time: 109 minutes