A Wrinkle in Time

I enjoyed A Wrinkle in Time so much. It was not a movie made from my A Wrinkle in Time. A Wrinkle in Time was read to me by my fourth-grade teacher before I read it myself. We were still in the first Cold War. The tropes and images were from the fifties and sixties. I didn’t expect to see that version of A Wrinkle in Time on the big screen.

(I didn’t expect it, but the creepy suburb scene was absolutely perfect.)

Ava Duvernay’s updating worked beautifully for me. Certainly I had quibbles and things I sadly missed. Here are a few; I missed the flying horse (or were they unicorns?) and the oxygen flower-cups. I missed the fall foliage of the original rural setting and the idea of a house in the woods.

(I have since decided that the “reason” for the Southern California location was that Mom and Dad Murray work for NASA and report to JPL which is in Pasadena. But still… really?)

There were things that were done better than a literal picturing from the book would have; the depiction of It (now re-named “The It.” Thanks, Stephen King), the tesseract; the white room.

Storm Reid as Meg and Deric McCabe playing Charles Wallace both deliver strong, realistic performances as the young leads, but this movie, like the book, is Meg’s, and Reid is brilliant. She is wounded, questioning, defiant, thoughtful and analytical. Moments of joy break through before she remembers that her father is missing, and she falls back into sullen silence. Her stubbornness, and her love of her family, carry her though, and Reid made me believe every moment of it.

The three “Mrs” are delightful fun. The pleasant surprise for me was Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who. This is not an actor I’ve seen in other roles, and she completely delivered.  Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Mr. and Mrs. Murray were fine, but their roles were small (and I can’t help noticing that in neither case was it “doctor.”) Levi Miller was an attractive Calvin but Calvin is basically support for Meg, so he didn’t show off a lot of acting chops here because he didn’t have to.

I haven’t heard much controversy about this; I liked the addition of the bullying character of Veronica. I thought her role and the revelation about her let us see that Meg’s growth extended beyond her family. Nicely done.

One thing I didn’t like as much, and this may be controversial. In the book, science was important. L’Engle was a deeply spiritual and religion woman who believed absolutely in science and she saw no contradiction between those two things. In the book, the first time we see Mrs. Murray she is conducting an experiment. She is as much a scientist as her husband. While that’s implied here, Mrs. Murray’s role as a scientist is downplayed for that of conventional Loving Mother and second-banana. While Mr. Murray shows Meg experiments and hangs out in a coolly-appointed lab, the science is underplayed. While he searches for “the frequency” that will wrinkle time, he only discovers it when his heart is filled with love. “Love is the frequency” should be a bumper sticker, not a major plot point. At the end, Mr. Murray apologizes to Meg for putting his desire to “shake hands with the universe” ahead of his family, as if that what’s he did. He didn’t. He did an experiment that had unexpected consequences. (In fact, it looks as if he wasn’t even conducting experiments at the point the tesseract activated; it’s not clear.) At no time in the few scenes with him before he’s sucked out into the universe do we get any sense of a neglectful father.

On the bright side, Meg uses science at least once and maybe twice in the movie to solve problems, and I liked that very much. I just wish the end had not succumbed to the tired old either-or that we seem to insist on in this country; science or faith, career or family. It gets in the way of a society where institutions of faith welcome robust science and families are supported and celebrated by the professions. That’s not a really a critique of the movie, though, is it?

This movie is aimed at young viewers. When I saw it, there was not a single child in the theater and everyone was over fifty by my estimation. We were reaching back for our childhoods. This would be a great film to see with kids. For those who grumbled that the story wasn’t deep enough and not morally complex enough, I would say, it’s a movie for kids. It’s about a girl who misses her father and will face anything in the universe to find him, and the beings who help her. Meg is not as smart as Charles Wallace. She thinks she is not pretty; she’s in trouble at school, she describes herself as “messy,” but she is honest, she is strong and she fights for what she loves. And I loved that.

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