Wrinkle fine but fails to soar
Though it’s now regarded as a seminal work in the science fiction and young adult genres, Madeleine L’Engle had a difficult time getting A Wrinkle in Time published. It was rejected 26 times, and the author has stated that the reasons she was given was that it was “too different” and “because it deals overtly with the problem of evil and it was really difficult for children, and was it a children’s or an adults’ book, anyhow?” She posited at a later date that the fact it “had a female protagonist in a science fiction book” might have delayed its publication as well.
This was in the early 1960s; obviously some things have changed and some haven’t. We’re in the middle of what is hopefully a sea of change where women’s rights and the way they are represented in the media are concerned, and, as such, Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of L’Engle’s novel couldn’t be timelier. Obvious changes have been made in the casting of the main characters, which doesn’t affect the story in any way but does alter transition times.
This is all well and good; I just wish the movie was better. No money has been spared ($103 million) in bringing the tale to the big screen, and the film achieves the necessary cosmic scope without breaking much of a sweat. The razzle-dazzle is there, but the story comes off as disjointed and inconsistent in tone. As a result, the film never gains the momentum it needs to sweep us away, despite the interstellar nature of the tale.
The story centers on Meg (Storm Reid), a 13 year old who’s still reeling from the disappearance of her scientist father (Chris Pine) that occurred four years ago. She has an adoptive brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), a 6-year-old genius that knows just how to get under her skin, as well as a dreamy boyfriend, Calvin (Levi Miller), who does his best to pick her up when she’s feeling down. As if things weren’t complicated enough, one day three celestial beings – Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) – appear out of thin air to tell her about a very convenient McGuffin that might just help her find her father. It’s called a tesser, a warp in the space-time continuum that may lead her to dad.
Of course, Meg can’t do this alone, and with Charles and Calvin in tow, the adventure begins with the trio zooming across the cosmos, encountering one odd bird after another. Whenever the three Mrs.’ show up, their constant wardrobe changes come off as audition pieces for “RuPaul’s Drag Race” while the inequitable distribution of quality screen time between three becomes regrettably obvious. Witherspoon is saddled with complex exposition, Winfrey is the cheerleader (“You can do this!”) and utterer of dire pronouncements (“Darkness will fall across the universe.”), while Kaling … well, she’s a bit more than window dressing but a bit less than a well-realized character.
These flaws are ones that adults will notice, though the audience this is pitched to probably won’t mind and will hopefully embrace its message of self-actualization and relate to Meg’s inner confidence and the power it brings. In the end, Wrinkle is fine for teens and kids; it simply doesn’t soar as it should in order to sweep adults away, especially those who could use a reminder of the power of positive thinking.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.