THE STORYMeg Murry and her little brother, Charles Wallace, have been without their scientist father, Mr. Murry, for five years, ever since he discovered a new planet and used the concept known as a tesseract to travel there. Joined by Meg’s classmate Calvin O’Keefe and guided by the three mysterious astral travelers known as Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, the children brave a dangerous journey to a planet that possesses all of the evil in the universe.
THE CAST – Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifianakis & Michael Pena
THE TEAM – Ava DuVernay (Director), Jennifer Lee & Jeff Stockwell (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 109 Minutes
By DeAnn C.
”A Wrinkle In Time” was one of my most anticipated films of 2018 due to the strength of director Ava DuVernay and her powerful work on films like “Selma” and “13th”. Add to the mix, a childhood favorite novel of mine, you could not keep me away from the theater. Before I fully dissect the components of the film, I want to start by acknowledging the power of this story in my own words. It is about a pre-teen, girl of color, who self-actualizes on an adventure to free herself from the guilt of her father’s abandonment. Despite the cruelty of the world that seeks to destroy her, she manages to provide inspiration and light to those around her, who are also struggling to really know themselves. It is the story of a girl who realizes that before she can show anybody else the way, she must love herself first. These are beautiful themes and there are pockets of this film where the beauty and impact of that narrative connects. There is a 12-year-old version of me that would be enamored with this film. There is a caregiver in me that wants every young girl to watch this film.
If I am to speak of the film in acts, the second act by far carries the strength of the film. This is where Meg (Storm Reid) and her crew are sent on their way to face the adventures ahead. With the gifts of Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Meg is fueled by the encouragement and need to love herself and trust those she loves. The third act is where things get very weird and there are moments where the weirdness is firing on all cylinders, in a good way. As an example, Michael Pena appears for a scene on the beach that is colorful and charming and equally unsettling. If the movie was more effectively framed, this scene could have been masterful.
The first act was where the film struggles the most. The performances and character development in the real world were challenging to relate to and felt forced. This felt particularly true of the young adult and child actors involved. The connection between Meg and her new friend Calvin felt very forced, and the tension with her bully neighbor also struggled to find authenticity. The highlight was Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw who are working hard to bring stakes and pathos to their performances as Meg’s parents. They manage to help maintain interest in the story to come and also provide the necessary amount of emotion towards the end of the film. There are some musical moments that are very powerful, most specifically in the original song from Sade, entitled “Flowers Of The Universe”.
The biggest disappointment is the inconsistency in the storytelling and tone of the film. For a movie that had moments of such self-assuredness, the whole of the film lacked the cohesiveness needed to make it one of Ava’s masterworks. There are stunning visuals, including a scene where Meg and her team talk to the flowers for answers, that completely amazed. The artistry in the opening and closing shot are also breathtaking and my optimism when the film started on that imagery was riding high. But once the characters are introduced, you are brought down to a plodding reality that feels insincere as compared to the depth of the amazing themes. Disappointment set in quicker than I expected, as I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride for the duration of the film.
The tension for climactic scenes was not as effective as the resolution of the characters at the heart of the film. This is where the story and the weirdness did not quite connect. With limited recollection of the source material, I do, however, recall the eccentricities and disorder of the story being a truth. Perhaps, this film and its director were working to restore some order to that, thus leading to its unevenness.
The main characters of Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Who, have this interesting effect of growing on you instead of wearing on you. By the time they leave our lead character, I actually found myself welcoming their return. This was quite a surprise after my confusion with the setup for the film’s story and its characters. Mrs. Which has a beautiful moment where she reminds Meg of her self-worth. Mrs. Whatsit, despite some awkward moments, challenges Meg to embrace her faults, which actually made my heart warm. There are moments that hit, but not enough to carry the film across generations of audience members that will be watching with their daughters and sons.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – This film works the best at its weirdest and then on the other extreme, at its most sentimental. There was some beautiful imagery, and the film gains your appreciation for ‘The Mrs’ over the runtime. This is a story about a girl who blames herself for the things she cannot change and struggles to accept herself in the process. That message shines through. The second act was the highlight of the film in terms of tone and the connection of storytelling to the visuals.
THE BAD – The biggest disappointment is the inconsistency in the storytelling and the tone. For a film that had moments of such self-assuredness, the whole of the film lacked the cohesiveness needed to make it masterful.
THE FINAL SCORE – 5/10