Powerful and a little (or maybe a lot, depending on your baseline) trippy, Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” is overflowing with magic — especially Black Girl Magic. Here’s the thing: I am a white woman, and when I left the theater and thought about writing this review, I immediately knew I could not do the movie justice.
Here’s what Rachel Hatzipanagos says in her review for The Lily:
“The significance of watching a young girl of color like Meg grow into herself in a big-budget movie can’t be underestimated. Young black girls can watch someone who looks like them go on an adventure on the big screen.
Meg is #BlackGirlMagic, come to life."
This is exactly what Meg did for me as a child and teen. It’s beyond fucking time someone opened up that vision for girls and teens of color, and I cannot think of anyone better to do it than Reid and DuVernay.
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Best time to watch:
Watch this when you want to get lost in something beautiful and fantastical. Our lives are easily filled with spreadsheets and scheduling, tedious chores and soul-sucking conference calls. No matter what our intention - or resolve at the start of 2018 to act with intention (just me?) — by the ides of March, it’s easy to get lost in the daily drudgery.
How do you break out of that? You set aside all of your adult-nonsense and let yourself be completely swept up in another world, one that reminds you how brave you can be and how tremendous you are.
This would also be a perfect activity when you’re left in charge of a human, particularly a female-identifying human, ages 10 and up. Take said human out for hot chocolate afterward and ask them what they thought. Ask them what scares them and what makes them feel brave. Ask what character they related to and why. Ask yourself these things, too.
Worst time to watch:
Don’t watch this movie if you want a movie for adults. This is a children’s movie. Also a science fantasy movie. Most of the complaints that I have heard were from people who had too many questions/felt it was too short/wanted it to explore more things.
I would also strongly advise that you don’t reread the book before you watch this, or watch it if you have just read the book. This is my standard disclaimer for all adaptations — because they aren't meant to exactly mirror the originals. Keep in mind the way the book made you feel, but if you’ve just read the book and can’t wait to see the twins or a specific conversation, wait a year before you watch the movie.
Where to watch:
While I genuinely love my local independent theater, I have a gift for always sitting in the seat destined to be blocked by someone far taller than I am. Normally, I don’t mind having a small corner of the screen blocked, but this movie is so damn beautiful that I recommend you find some stadium seating or go at a terribly obscure time to avoid missing even an inch.
Meg Murry, her baby brother Charles Wallace, and new-friend Calvin O’Keefe travel the universe with the help of immortal beings in search of Dr. Murry, Meg and Charles Wallace’s father, who disappeared four years ago after his experiment to travel the universe by tessering goes awry.
Have I ever loved anything as much as I love this movie? I’m sure I have, but right now, I can’t think of a single thing.
As I mentioned above, I think many people wanted this to be a movie for them. It had meant a lot to them in adolescence, and they expected it would fill that place they’ve held in their heart for it. I get it. I was once an awkward, bullied girl named Meg. Until middle school, I was the only person in my friend group with parents who weren’t together, my family loved me but definitely didn’t get me, and I had really unruly hair and giant glasses.
The pages of “A Wrinkle in Time” were a sanctuary I turned to over and over again. (The entire trilogy, truly.)
But “A Wrinkle in Time” is a novel, it is not a movie script. Can you imagine that movie? Actually do it. Try. Stop reading, and remember how droll (delightfully so!) L’Engle can be. And how dense her writing.
“My guiding principle was the story and the experience that I wanted an audience to have. I’m constantly thinking about audience, all the time. This film is for 8 to 12-year-olds.” – DuVernay
So let’s get on board with two, fundamental agreements: This movie is not for you. The book is not a movie script. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about why this movie was amazing, full stop.
The film starts with Meg in her room, and yes, it’s a dark and stormy night. She is heavy in this world, weighed down by a missing father, fears of abandonment, and a crushing sense that she is disappointing everyone around her. Her teachers judge her and her brother, her classmates are nasty bitches in the way only 13-year-old girls can be, and her mother is at wit’s end trying to get her to snap the fuck out of it.
And then Reese Witherspoon shows up as Mrs. Whatsit. She is dressed in white and throwing mad side-eye at Meg. She tells Charles Wallace — for not the last time — that she’s “not sure about this one.” Meg isn’t sure about herself.
See what I mean about the side-eye?
When Meg, along with Calvin and Charles Wallace, soon meet Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, their journey through the universe begins. Tessering through space and time is hard on Meg. The Mmes. explain the reason it hurts her is because she does not want to land as herself.
But once Meg lands, she begins to see the beauty, even if she can’t yet embrace it. Here, I will pause to note: I cannot overstate how gloriously beautiful the cinematography is.
“I’m the first woman to ever make a fantasy film, at this price point ... I didn’t want to shy away from that. I didn’t want to make a film like a boy. I wanted to make a film like a girl, with what I like.” - DuVernay
In the same way I cannot overstate the beauty, I also cannot describe it with accuracy. There is something fundamentally different about a fantasy world imagined and brought to life by a woman, a quality I cannot name but immediately recognize in this movie.
As they travel, Meg comes to not only be who she is (as though we can ever escape that) but also embrace it. She finds her fucking power and she uses it to save not only herself, but the men in her life.
“You can decide who you want to be in life and what kind of person you want to be, walking through the world, every day. If each person shines, just a little bit, we’ll have more people shining than people that are trying to bring us down.” - DuVernay
I cannot imagine having children, ever, let alone in such a dark and scary world. And yet so many people I love and respect are bringing children into this world, and I like to imagine it is in many ways a response to the darkness, sort of a, “Well, I guess we need to repopulate this world with better people” feeling.
At the same time, I am deeply curious as to how you raise humans who can understand (as much as any of us can) what is happening around us and how deeply terrifying it is. And if I were a parent, I would play this movie for my kids weekly.
We all need to hear Oprah’s Mrs. Which telling us that we are warriors of light, Mindy Kaling’s Mrs. Who quoting Rumi, and Witherspoon’s Mrs. Whatsit urging us to find strength in our faults. We need to see Reid’s Meg show us how impossibly brave we can be.
And can we take a moment to talk about those casting choices? There is no one I would rather play those characters. These women, who are so powerful and empowering in their own lives, bring every ounce of their individual and collective glory to the screen in a way that makes you actually better for having seen it.
Check out this trio of badasses.
So let the critics call this movie disjointed or a disappointment. Let them (and let’s be clear: primarily older, white men) miss its magic. It’s not for them. It’s not even for you, adult female reader, though I suspect you will find it is for a part of your psyche that you often forget but still very much feel. This movie is a gift to the children and teens of this worlds, and I implore you to share it with as many of them as you can.
- The first thing I said to my girlfriends when the lights in the theater came on was: “I have a lot to say right now but I need to start with this — how do I rock the half tucked shirt as well as Dr. Murry in that final scene?” Seriously, help.
- I have only ever seen Ava DuVernay’s name written, and my brain did a thing it loves to do and removed some letters so that I thought it was “Ava DuVray.” This would’ve been harmless ... except I have been saying it a lot these past few weeks. When she introduced the movie (not in person! just a quick clip before the show) my cheeks got really, really red.
- The technical effects to make Oprah’s Mrs. Which were surprisingly glitchy for a movie so spectacularly shot.
- I really want to ship Mrs. Whatsit and the Happy Medium. Hands down, that was my favorite departure from the book.
- Sade wrote a song for the soundtrack! DuVernay worked with her to put the lyrics into the script, and it’s amazing.
- The costume designer, Paco Delgado, took abstract feelings about the character and turned them into masterpieces. I loved reading about his process and experience in his interview with Elle.
- Bellamy Young — who I know best from her small role in Scrubs — makes an appearance here. It drove me crazy not being able to place her until I looked it up. She lends such brilliance to her appearance — which I imagine lasted no more than a minute — that I wish I saw her in more things.
- All of the Rumi quotes make me want to actually read some Rumi. Where do I start with Rumi, y’all?