I didn’t really grow up watching The Oprah Winfrey Show as a kid, but I definitely have friends who did, and I think this wholesome movie is absolutely for that generation of young people who grew up idolizing Oprah. And also for small children ages 12 and under.
A Wrinkle in Time is the film adaptation of the original children’s novel series by Madeleine L’Engle, directed by the one and only Ava DuVernay. Having not read the books as a kid, I went into the theater kind of blind; I had heard mixed reviews across the board and I had high expectations without really knowing what to expect. Leaving the theater, I have to say I was both enchanted and slightly underwhelmed. The film follows a young, troubled girl, Meg, who is bullied and struggles at school after her father disappears. With her Filipino brother, Charles Wallace, Meg runs into a variety of fantastical events à la The Cat Returns (Morita, 2002), including the three Mrs.: Mrs. Which (a godly Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (a chirpy Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (a surprising Mindy Kaling). Together, they all travel the “universe” to find the dad (Chris Pine). And along the way, Meg learns to love herself and all her flaws like a true Miyazaki protagonist.
First and foremost, this movie is absolutely STUNNING. The visuals in this are colorful, playful, bigger-than-life and such a testament to DuVernay’s visual imagination. A Wrinkle in Time, as a sci-fi fantasy novel, is notorious apparently for being considered impossible to make into a live-action film adaptation, but DuVernay made this story come to life in such a loving and technically focused way. The scenes shot in New Zealand are breathtaking, and I really, truly want this movie to take home next year’s Oscar for Best Costume Design and Best Makeup and Hairstyling because Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling look like actual goddesses in literally every single shot.
That being said, I think where the film probably lacked the most, as with many sci-fi films, was perhaps in the story/pacing. The narrative jumps both emotionally and physically from place to place without much explanation, which, if you’re unfamiliar with the books, will probably throw you and your suspension of disbelief off. But, I’m also a jaded 20-something year old watching this, and this film landed very differently for me than it would for, say, an 11 year old girl who’s going through puberty and feeling all the awkward feels of becoming a teenage girl. And as far as representation goes, I do love and greatly admire the casting decisions made for this film; to place Oprah and Mindy as two of the greater-than-life Mrs.' and Storm Reid, an up-and-coming young Black actress, as the main protagonist is endearing to see. There’s a particular scene in which Oprah gives Meg some heartfelt advice about loving herself and I absolutely, unabashedly did cry at that. This film touches your heart if you let it, and I have no doubt that it will resonate well with especially women and girls of color, and specifically young black girls. There’s a reason that DuVernay focuses on hair as one of Meg’s central insecurities.
Overall, the film was perhaps a little too ambitious in its scope, but hey, it’s an uplifting sci-fi fantasy movie for children, so who cares? (Though, as a Ghibli fan, I can only imagine the possibilities of a 2D animated adaptation of this.) What this particular film stands for, however, is much larger and very much represents a sort of love letter to childhood from Ava DuVernay. This film, along with Black Panther, is sweeping the box office right now and I hope both films stay there for a long, long time.