The Answer-Man’s Un-review of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’
I just got home and took a look at the comments to my Wrinkle in Time notation I posted right after I left the movie, ranging from comments about #TimesUp, issues around the empowerment of women, to complaints about the missing underlying religious tone of Madeleine L’Engle’s published work — people complaining about how dull it was, how it lacked enough conflict, how it failed because it didn’t have the expected final boss sequence so common to videogames, anime and modern movies; conversation about too much talk about love and not enough monster-bashing.
Others complained the movie preached without having any substance and that the three Mrs. were placed in a position to be worshiped and the movie gave them too much significance. How do you write a review about a movie which came from a book?
Worse, it has been a banned book which disturbed evangelicals across the nation, a book whose writer felt more strongly about her writing than her religion and yet who wrote books which resonated positively and negatively because of the religious undertones.
Can any movie made today possible please everyone because of the very nature of this controversial book?
A movie which defies the nature and tenor of modern films which specialize in overly simple story arcs, caricatures and over-the-top stereotypes of manliness; movies whose primary stars are the number of explosions, bullets fired, bombs defused, and murders per minute have become acceptable nay, preferable, to having a movie which promotes emotions, highlights feelings and challenges the worst natures of our common existence.
No movie can do all that. Not well.
No movie which hopes to enlighten us to the inner world of a teenage girl trying to find herself, can hope to be a movie for all people. The last time I think I saw that attempted successfully was The Wizard of Oz.
Yet, you should see it anyway.
‘Wrinkle’ is a movie you didn’t know you needed
Are there awkward pauses? Yes. What teenage girl hasn’t experienced awkward pauses. Hasn’t felt herself changing and not knowing what is expected of her. No longer a child, not quite an adult, in a moment in time where every decision made can be a first, filled with the frustration of not knowing the result, with the challenge of not being taken seriously by anyone. Not having one’s potential being recognized but instead forced into a box, not of one’s choosing.
This is what the movie is about, recognizing one’s potential, recognizing one’s need for change, learning about the need for the love of one’s parents, especially if you have been lucky enough to have parents whose love was so apparent, so generous, so enriching that a loss of that parent was akin to losing an arm or a leg, a complete transformation of your way of seeing the world; a love so great it defines your existence in a way you didn’t know until it was gone.
Yes, no explosions, no external conflicts, no major boss fights, no bullets thrown, not even harsh language. No, this is a movie about the inner world, the inner struggles, our challenges to be our best selves while fighting our worst motivations, the urge for power, influence, opportunity, battling our fears and insecurities.
The reason this movie doesn’t resonate isn’t because the writer didn’t do their job. I found the script more than adequate. This isn’t a director’s failure, either. Ava Duvernay’s well-honed craft was revealed in Selma to the nomination for Best Picture, and nominated again for another Oscar for her documentary 13th. She is a respected master of her craft.
If it doesn’t resonate with you, it’s because so few of us remember a time when we were vulnerable, challenged to remember when we didn’t know everything and were dependent upon our parents to guide us. It has been forever since most of us, remember anything about the healthy need for approval, the appearance of a sane and normal family feels wrong in our drama-prone, reality-television era.
The Murrys are a family where their love of work created an opportunity for the species. It is a work which discusses the nature of love crossing the Universe and only such a powerful love can protect us from the worst aspects of ourselves. Yes, the book did have religious overtones, but I don’t think they were lost. I think they were folded into this work with the potential that others be able to enjoy it as well.
Our culture’s inability to see things without religious overtones is, in my opinion, part of the problem. We assume it isn’t possible to be good, moral or ethical without religion. This movie making this effort is so alien to our current culture, I’m surprised anyone agreed to have it done in the first place. But personally, I am glad Ava Duvernay did this movie, no matter what people say.
I want a movie where love is real, is apparent, not disguised, and can bring value to lives. We don’t see it anymore and if this movie inspires others to take the risk of not having explosions, death, destruction, murder and mayhem not become the central themes of their movies, it will be worth it.
For you action and adventure movie-goers, you may be disappointed. But if you are a person looking to see love personified in the work, the craft, the very magic of a movie where each scene is meticulous in its design, each costume a labor of love, every scenery painting, then this is your movie.
It’s about time a movie which talks about the challenges of being a teen girl genius didn’t just require dodging mean girls, being snarky and pretending she doesn’t feel anything. Yes, this movie does not focus on the common movie trope of white men being the center of all things. Dad Murry, played by Chris Pine, is the maiden-in-distress in Wrinkle. Calvin O’Keefe played by Levi Miller is supportive eye-candy and should this series get the opportunity to grow, he will become a more meaningful character in the future.
The breakout character, Charles Wallace, came to life in a way I never thought could be done. Deric McCabe is one hell of an actor at nine. He gave Charles Wallace’s intellect, love and creativity to the role and when he embodied the IT, he was positively chilling.
Meg Murry is alive on-screen in a way I haven’t seen for a long time. The beautiful eyes of Storm Reid give us access to her soul each time she awakened on a new world, a metaphor to the changes in her inner landscape, her inner fears and challenges.
Zach Galifianakis impressed me most of all. I can’t say I am a fan of his but his role as the Happy Medium showed a vulnerability I didn’t expect.
While much ado is made of the three angelic beings as being overwhelming or doing too much, I enjoyed their depictions by Oprah Winfry (Mrs. Which), Reese Witherspoon (Mrs. Whatsit) and Mindy Kaling (Mrs. Who) who were gorgeously dressed in every scene and carried their bombastic roles with the proper gravity of godlike beings pretending to be merely flesh.
This is not a perfect movie.
I believe everything which made a critic unhappy somewhere was not done by accident. I believe everything we see is done with intent, the light, the angles, the focus on faces, the attempt to capture love on film was apparent to me. This is a meticulous work, slow enough to allow you to savor its cinematic richness, its nuances, the subtleties of emotion.
Don’t expect it to be faster, slow down with it. The way you do with your favorite foods. Roll them around in your mouth, bask in their rich flavors. Marvel at the technique which made it possible. This movie is a food for your soul. Not your adult soul but your inner child, a child seeking answers in an unknowable Universe.
I am happy not to be a movie critic. I don’t have to find fault with something I consider an effort of love, no less valuable than that of Black Panther, important because it focuses on our inner space — a space sorely in need of creative restoration. At the time of this un-review, the Black Panther and the Wrinkle in Time motion pictures shared the rare distinction of being two movies crewed and developed by black creators in the first and second spots on the charts.
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you,” said Rumi. He would have had this movie in mind. Love is a wound most of us don’t remember but are in desperate need of.
Thank you for your effort Ava and team; what we need is a form of moral heroism sadly missing in most movies today. I loved this movie differently than I loved the books, but no less. Madeline L’Engle would recognize your concessions and find your conservation of the real message to be a success.
We are part of a larger Universe and yet, Love matters. It will always matter.
Rating 7 of 10: For being the movie we need, not necessarily the movie we’re used to getting.