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Film adaptation of 'A Wrinkle in Time' falls flat

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From Director Ava DuVernay (Selma) and screenwriter Jennifer Lee (Frozen, Zootopia), comes the film adaptation of the novel A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. Meg Murry (Storm Reid, 12 Years a Slave) is a typical middle school student struggling with issues of self-worth who is desperate to fit in. As the daughter of two world-renowned physicists, she is intelligent and uniquely gifted, as is Meg's younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe, Stephanie), but she has yet to realize it for herself. Making matters even worse is the baffling disappearance of Mr. Murry (Chris Pine, Wonder Woman), which torments Meg and has left her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Beauty and the Beast) heartbroken. Charles Wallace introduces Meg and her fellow classmate, Calvin (Levi Miller, Pan), to three celestial guides—Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon, Wild) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Show)—who have journeyed to Earth to help search for their father, and together they set off on their formidable quest. (120 min.)

Editor's Note: Arts Editor Ryah Cooley and Staff Writer Karen Garcia are stepping in to write Split Screen this week while Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and his wife, Anna, take a break.

WARRIORS Otherworldly guides Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) travel far through time and space to help two kids find their father in A Wrinkle in Time. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WALT DISNEY PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Walt Disney Pictures
  • WARRIORS Otherworldly guides Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) travel far through time and space to help two kids find their father in A Wrinkle in Time.

Ryah I was really, really excited for this film adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. I grew up reading and loving the novel by L'Engle and the diverse, star studded cast (Winfrey, Kaling, Witherspoon, and company) headed up by badass lady director DuVernay sounded oh so promising. And yet ... I left the theater feeling very underwhelmed. I think two things are to blame here: the script and the interpretation of the source material. Sure, a book is a book and a movie is a movie, so some things get lost in translation, or added in or taken out. But the movie had a ton of boring, banal dialogue that definitely wasn't in the book and didn't do much to further the plot along. While writer Lee has had much success with kiddie films like Frozen and Zootopia, I don't think her approach worked well here for what is at its core, a coming of age story. And unlike young adult fantasy novels like say, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, where you can imagine the world down to the doorknobs on the castle, L'Engle writes with a much broader brush, forcing each reader to imagine the universe she creates a little differently. That said, any director would need a strong aesthetic vision for this film, and it's gorgeous and stunning to look at. However, it ends up feeling a bit more like an acid trip á la Alice in Wonderland than a sci-fi film where three kids and their alien-esque guides travel via a wrinkling of time and space known as tessering to try and combat a powerful evil and save Mr. Murry (Pine), who has been gone for four years due to an experiment gone wrong.

Karen I, too, was excited about this film but felt like I got shortchanged. There are a lot of things that were left unanswered in the film like what exactly is tessering? How did Camaztoz become such an evil place in the universe? And how did Mr. Murry end up there? The film broadly touches on these overarching theories and places without giving much explanation. Hey, I'm 25 years old—and I want answers—as opposed to a child viewer who might just accept these ideas. DuVernay did say that this film was geared for children between the ages of 8 and 14, and I fully agree with that. The film is beautiful to watch with bright colors, glitter, and shimmers of gold. I'll admit the cinematography was captivating, but that's about it. I will give a hats off to DuVernay for creating such a diverse cast for this film, something that should just be a norm for films, now more than ever. You have Meg with bi-racial parents (her father is white and her mother is black) and an adopted Filipino-American little brother. And then you have the three whimsical ladies who are black, white, and Indian-American. It differs from the novel, as the main characters and three celestial matriarchs where thought to be white. I loved the casting choices for this film; all the characters bounce off each other really well. It just wasn't the best Disney film for me. I don't know if it's the writing or maybe the fact that the novel is written in such a way that you really need to use your imagination to envision the story.

Ryah The book is fantastical but definitely doesn't lend itself to an easy film adaptation. And while I agree that diverse casting like this should be the norm in movies, I scratched my head a bit when it was revealed that Kaling's character was the Mrs. Who that could only quote others to get her message across, leaving Witherspoon with the most dialogue out of the trio, since Winfrey was in fewer scenes. Having a diverse cast is progress, but why did Witherspoon, the only white actress of the trio, get the most lines? I did, however, enjoy the standout performance of Reid as a struggling, angst-filled teen dealing with the unexplained absence of her dad. In one particularly moving scene, her younger brother, Charles Wallace, has been taken over by an evil force, and she declares, "You should love me because I deserve to be loved!" It's a message that more young girls need to hear. While I wouldn't recommend forking over the cash to see it on the big screen, renting A Wrinkle in Time on a rainy day and curling up at home would make for a pleasant enough afternoon.

HAPPY MEDIUM Meg Murry (Storm Reid, right) struggles to find balance within herself after the disappearance of her father, even though others, like Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey, left), believe in her. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WALT DISNEY PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Walt Disney Pictures
  • HAPPY MEDIUM Meg Murry (Storm Reid, right) struggles to find balance within herself after the disappearance of her father, even though others, like Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey, left), believe in her.

Karen As the film broadly touches on fantastical scientific theories, it also touches on coming-of-age, empowerment, individuality, love, and abandonment—I won't spoil the latter for you. There was a lot that could have been done differently with this film. I just felt like instead of having important dialogue that a child viewer could understand and connect with, it just felt like motivational posters were being spewed on the screen. It's an interesting storyline—a girl travels to the outer reaches of time and space to find her lost father. While she has help along the way from an unlikely group of friends, she must also face her fears alone. The biggest lesson of all: Before she can help others she has to learn to love and accept herself. I'll echo that it's a very important message that young girls need to know. Especially with Reid's character who is relatable on so many levels: smart, misunderstood, and hurt. While the message is clear and it's a great story, it could have been delivered differently. Δ

Arts Editor Ryah Cooley and Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Split Screen. Send comments to rcooley@newtimesslo.com.


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