REVIEW: A Wrinkle In Time – Sincere Despite Some Stumbles

There’s a lot to love in Ava Duvernay’s A Wrinkle In Time, and a lot of the moving pieces work together to make an adventure that young girls everywhere are sure to find inspiring and that adults will find lovely to look at. But there are also a few misfires in the mythical tale, many of which I’m sure faithful book fans will be able to attest to better than I can.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw gives a warm, textured performance that bookends the film nicely.

As someone who enjoyed the novels as a child but never cherished them, I walked into A Wrinkle In Time with more questions about how the film would bring the complicated science fiction elements of the story to life, as the trailers had not yet made it clear. Beyond that, I was prepared to be entertained by a cast of talented actors in charming roles. The film simplified the scientific elements in a way that streamlined the story, but also made it ironically less cinematic. Tesseracting is a particularly hard thing to visualize, but the shimmering folds in the scenery weren’t as inspiring as they could’ve been – even the bedazzled eyebrows on Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) had more pizazz than that. On the other hand, I’m happy to report that I was especially satisfied on the latter front. For one, Gugu Mbatha Raw and Chris Pine grounded the film with nuanced and touching performances as Drs. Alex and Kate Murry, making it easy to believe they could raise children as brilliant and sensitive as Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and Meg (Storm Reid). It was a shame that the script didn’t delve a little more into their respective ordeals during the intervening years, because they could easily have provided more of a way in for the adults in the audience.

But that’s not to say that Reid and McCabe weren’t also excellent, or that the main story was devoid of depth. Reid especially gave a tour de force performance, with as many layers as Meg has insecurities. It’s a difficult role that could easily fall into the stoic heroine trope that resists the plot at every turn, but instead Reid managed to imbue her character with strength and compassion amidst the fear and uncertainty. And McCabe also performed admirably, though the writing for Charles Wallace was too close to the stereotypical precocious child of every horror film to provide McCabe with much to work with. If there was a weak link, it might be Levi Miller as Calvin – but that’s more the fault of the thinly written role than the actor himself. His purpose was primarily to help Meg learn her own worth and lift her up, and I commend him on his heart eyes. The moments of insight into his home life were poignant, but not enough to make up for his lack of arc throughout the film.

Storm Reid’s interplay with each of the Mrs. reflects her talent.

The three mysterious Mrs. gave fun and lively performances: Ophrah Winfrey was an especially delightful casting choice, while Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon each brought their unique flavor to the roles. But their stories were also unfortunately interlinked with A Wrinkle In Time‘s weakest parts. Not remembering the books as well as others, I can’t tell you what they were meant to be like on paper or what kind of urgency they needed to convey, but the onscreen rendition of their mission lacked tension and sorely needed it. Perhaps the fact that so much of their journey takes place in their minds hindered Duvernay’s ability to convey the scope of their battle against the evil of “The It,” but for whatever reason neither their fight nor the constantly growing darkness felt like the universal problem it was meant to. The climactic fight scene, if you can call it that, was really more about two characters and their battle of wills without any real indication of what would happen if the side of Good lost.

A Wrinkle In Time worked wonders on a personal level, though, as it both contained a compelling coming of age story for Meg and depicted the emotional struggles of the Murry family with surprising sincerity. There is a beautiful theme of self-love and courage woven through each of the equally beautiful CGI backdrops, even if too much time is spent in some and not enough in others. The pacing of the film could be tighter, especially as not much ground is covered in Jennifer Lee’s script at the end of the day.

While it is not the next masterpiece of Disney cinema, it has more than enough flashy costumes and heartfelt moments for kids – especially girls – to enjoy.