A Wrinkle in Time ★★★

(My review for The Daily Emerald)

Ava Duvernay’s “A Wrinkle In Time” is the first ever live-action film directed by a woman of color to have a budget over $100 million. Considering that just 4% of top-grossing directors from 2007 – 2016 were women, and just seven were women of color, the film undeniably breaks exciting new ground no matter how many diminutive flaws it has.

Based off of the 1962 book by Madeleine L’Engle, the film follows Meg Murry (Storm Reid) as she embarks on a quest to find her missing father (Chris Pine) with her little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and a boy from school named Calvin (Levi Miller). Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), a manic and impulsive redhead, Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), an oracle who has evolved beyond language and only speaks in famous quotes, and Mrs. Which, a gloriously giant deity (Oprah Winfrey), help the trio out as they teleport to strange new worlds and dimensions. The logic behind this “wrinkling of time” doesn’t make much sense, but the chromatic visuals effectively distract the audience from thinking too hard about it.

In fact, Duvernay’s world-building is a highlight of the film, adapting L’Engle’s often confusing, convoluted source material into verdant landscapes filled with helpful talking flowers and lush jungles that are strangely akin to a kid-friendly version of Alex Garland’s “Annihilation.”

Another highlight is the excellent portrayal of Meg by 14-year-old Storm Reid, a wonderful new talent who has a brilliant acting career ahead of her. Reid embodies the shy, bespectacled Meg with a sensitive subtlety (fellow nerd girls will find her painfully relatable), but the same cannot be said for McCabe. It’s not fair to accost a 9-year-old for giving a poor performance — the blame should be placed on the casting director rather than the kid himself — but this smug, sweater-vest-wearing Young Sheldon-esque kid heavily detracted from what was supposed to be a touching brother-sister relationship.

The adult cast, on the other hand, makes the best of the clunky dialogue they’re given. Zach Galifianakis brings some genuine humor to his sage-like character, Happy Medium, and David Oyelowo is haunting as the voice of the murky, nebulous entity, The It. Chris Pine and Gugu M’batha Raw stand out as Meg’s scientist parents, explicitly giving biracial girls some long overdue on-screen representation.

Duvernay skillfully adds references to Meg’s biracial heritage. Calvin tells Meg that he likes her natural hair, and, insecure and unused to being complimented on her Black features, she becomes flustered and shrugs him off. Later, Meg faces off against an “ideal” double of herself — this version lacks glasses and dons straight hair, makeup, and trendy clothes. The confrontation is exhilarating, symbolic, and important for girls of color who are forced to cope with Westernized beauty ideals every day of their lives. Finally, they have a young heroine in a major film to relate and look up to.

“A Wrinkle In Time” is currently sitting at a dismal 3.9/10 on IMDb and a 42% on Rotten Tomatoes, most likely due to the fact that there are no child film critics. Sure, the over-expository script and confounding plotline may be aggravating for adults, but this movie isn’t made for them. This movie is for girls of color and biracial girls. It’s for girls who feel ashamed and alienated for loving math and science. It’s for girls who may be interested in cinematic, visual storytelling. But above all, “A Wrinkle In Time” is for girls who want to believe in themselves.

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