A Wrinkle in Time isn’t for cynics — or adults

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The children's novel by Madeleine L & # 39; Engle, A Wrinkle in Time, is a strange book, and that is gloriously deliberate. It is a family where rarity is the norm, the natural offshoot of scientific brilliance and wild creativity. But it is also about how a member of that family struggles with his own clumsiness, indignation and bad temper, and how those faults become active in a supernatural struggle to save his family from a vast interplanetary evil.
The new adaptation of the Disney movie, A Wrinkle in Time, directed by Ava DuVernay (nominated for the Oscar for the 2015 historical film Selma and the documentary of 2017 for the 13th), pays homage to that discomfort but never the capture of convincing way The type of weirdness of L & # 39; Engle can be ugly and disturbing, as its characters suffer physical abuse, fight their own uncontrollable attacks or simply throw a strange lingo, oblivious to the ways in which they are alienating or offending other people . The film is, without a doubt, the Disney version of the story, with everything that is potentially problematic or offensive removed and replaced with soft and pastel CGI. It is a beautiful version of the story, but also frustrating and safe. It is infinitely well intentioned, full of warm self-affirmation and positivity, and absolutely none of that feels emotionally authentic enough to carry those messages home.

Photo of Atsushi Nishijima / Walt Disney Pictures

Storm Reid plays Meg Murry, the teenage daughter of two scientists (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Chris Pine) who are investigating a way to travel the universe through tessering, a slightly vague method of channeling quantum entanglement and atomic frequencies. Meg is deeply devoted to her father, Mr. Murry, who brings her to her lab at an early age and sparks her interest in science. When she disappears suddenly, shortly after he and Mrs. Murry adopt a young son, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), Meg is devastated. Four years later, Mr. Murry is still missing, Charles Wallace is almost unbearably precocious, and Meg is acting in school, where a preening bully keeps pestering his missing father.
Then Charles Wallace presents Meg to three mysterious women. Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) talks incessantly and hovers over any space where she is like a noisy and exotic bird. Ms. Who (Mindy Kaling) can only speak between quotes of poets and rappers because "it has evolved beyond language", until the writers seemingly get tired of that. And Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) passes half of the movie as an imposing and semi-visible giant, a benevolently rigid goddess figure hovering over the process. All three are intensely colorful and colorful versions of alien aliens from L & # 39; Engle, which underlines one of the strangest things about this Wrinkle adaptation: it looks like a full-length version of the costume dance of the live-action movie of Disney, Beauty and the Beast. While the three "Mrses" take Meg, Charles Wallace, and a local boy named Calvin (star Pan, Levi Miller) on a trip around the universe to save Mr. Murry, Meg fights her anger, distrust and resentment, or at least the softened version of that which is permissible in a Disney movie.
Screenwriters Jennifer Lee (Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph) and Jeff Stockwell (Bridge to Terabithia) take a lot of their material directly from the L & # 39; Engle book, but that's not always an advantage. Lines like Mrs. Whatsit saying, "Wild nights are my glory!" Or Ms. Who's Rumi cites the game as peculiar on the page but it sounds stiff and pretentious coming out of the mouths of the actors. Even though Hollywood spent decades trying to figure out how to put superheroes disguised on the screen without making them look vaguely ridiculous, the idiosyncratic rhythms of L & # 39; Engle do not translate well to the way people really talk, especially when they hit the stands. the way they are here.

Photo of Atsushi Nishijima / Walt Disney Pictures

Which is one of Wrinkle's biggest problems: the performances are virtually noisy and strident, with the energy of the people in a Broadway musical trying to make sure their smiles still play for the holders of tickets in the nosebleed section . Everything in the film works with the same intense tone: the brilliant score hits the audience with urgency in all directions, the colors are bright as eyes, and the emotions are big enough to play on the smallest screen of the phone. This is a big, big movie, full of screaming lines and exclamation marks. And that perpetually goes against the personal qualities of history, which theoretically is as much about a girl navigating through her own hatred towards herself as about a great symbolic battle between good and evil.
But Lee and Stockwell, in particular, are more involved in the battle, and they express it in broader and more nude terms with perktastic lines like: "Love is always present, even if you can not feel it! It's always there for you! "O" We serve the light and the good in the universe! "The dialogue in the movie is often strangely clumsy and artificial, like when Calvin says abruptly in a moment:" I smell food, like, well, grilled food. "But It is especially strange around the good / bad dichotomy, light / dark, which is never really put in terms that are easier to identify. Like CS Lewis before her, L & # 39; Engle was a outspoken Christian who put her beliefs in her work, and her Wrinkle in Time is open about her religious images, and about her belief that love is a powerful force against the egocentric power of evil. But even so, L & # 39; Engle never had his lord Murry standing in his lab screaming "Love is the frequency!", Since his wife's love for his son makes all his mysterious scientific machines work for him. suddenly

Photo of Atsushi Nishijima / Walt Disney Pictures

And this exaggeration is not the only important script problem. Interestingly, Lee and Stockwell maintain the main movements of the script but constantly eliminate their purpose. Calvin is included, but he was never given any other purpose besides congratulating Meg so that she feels more comfortable with her own skin. Specific trips from planet to planet are preserved, but the reasoning behind them has been eliminated, making the story feel messy, accidental and overloaded. Too much history feels arbitrary, driven by images instead of a narrative purpose.
Despite its clumsiness and exaggeration, A Wrinkle in Time is a bold film. Certainly not for cynics. He carries his heart openly in his sleeve and shouts about the importance of said heart every few minutes. And that heart is unquestionably in the right place, given that the script brings together ideas about self-acceptance and individuality in each segment. Meg, for example, can not easily be tesser because instant travel involves liberation and translation into energy, and once he does, he does not want to return to the physical identity that the aggressors have told him to hate. Then, when Calvin and Charles Wallace effortlessly bounce around the universe, Meg struggles and struggles until she learns to like herself.
DuVernay fills the film with this type of safe and distinctive options, from the extravagant and retro-futuristic appearance of the three Mrs to the surreal images surrounding the on-screen antagonist Red (Michael Peña). His version of Wrinkle is a film worthy of a poster, with amazing images on every corner. And it's full of pro-science messaging, pro-uniqueness and pro-connection. It is simply strident and exaggerated about all these things to the point that adult viewers will find it difficult to swallow.

Photo of Atsushi Nishijima / Walt Disney Pictures

And the most audacious movement of all, to turn Reid into Meg and make the character biracial, is curiously undervalued. As in the book, Meg hates how it looks; her wild mane and thick glasses shame and enrage her. But Reid's casting gives a new dimension to the story by suggesting a connection between the discomfort of Meg's coming of age and the notorious identity struggles faced by biracial people. The focus on her hair seems particularly revealing, given the complicated politics around black women's hair.
But even in a movie where everything is written and shouted, this daring choice is never openly examined. In an environment in which more and more films closely examine race and real experiences of people of color, this seems like a missed opportunity. And it's a particular disappointment in a movie that spends so much screen time out loud, insistently spelling out its intentions. Young children can be accompanied by the complete adventure of A Wrinkle in Time, from the fight against the aggressors to the crazy CGI adventures. But like many of the best children's stories, L & # 39; Engle's quirky and comparatively quiet original book was well-founded and authentic enough to play for adults as well. In the attempt to make this story bigger, louder and more secure, many of its best qualities have been left behind.

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