ALTERNATE TAKE: A Wrinkle in Time (2018) by Ava DuVernay
Review by Courtney Anderson
Before I saw A Wrinkle In Time, I knew it wasn’t being received very well.
I’d seen mixed reviews. I saw plenty of people tweeting that they were in love with the movie and congratulating Ava DuVernay on what she's accomplished. People were detailing their emotional reactions to the film and talking about how good the movie made them film. I saw many people commenting about how grateful they were that teenage girls were able to see a movie like it.
I also saw people tweeting that it was the worst movie they’d seen thus far. Some people were saying that it was a total disappointment. One tweet that sticks out in my mind read that the viewer hoped that DuVernay would be able to “fail up” from Wrinkle, and that DuVernay was better for TV directing (which doesn’t feel fair to TV directing, but I digress).
I was confused. I knew it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea; I also knew some people would find it life-altering. But, both the extremely glowing tweets and the extremely critical tweets surprised me. I carried what I’d read with me when I went to see the movie.
My first reaction was that I adored it. About twenty minutes after I’d seen it, I tweeted that it was absolutely, positively glorious (to kind of borrow a phrase from Charles Wallace). I was even more confounded by the extremely critical reviews/tweets about the film because how could people hate something so heartwarming and sweet? I thought about Wrinkle for the rest of the day.
And then I thought about it for the next few days.
Personally speaking, my opinions about movies aren’t “true” until after a few days or a week. That’s usually the point where my emotions stop overpowering my analytical skills. I usually try not to talk too much about a film after I first see it.
A Wrinkle In Time was an exception because it made me so emotional: I related to Meg Murray very much and was deeply touched by her journey. It mirrors my own in many ways.
But, like I try to do with every movie I watch, I gave myself a few days to really think about the movie I watched and to weigh the pros against the cons so that I could have a solid opinion about it.
And my solid opinion about Wrinkle is . . . I still love it. But I definitely see why many others didn’t.
I think of Wrinkle like this: this is a coming-of-age story about a little Black girl who’s lost her father. She’s growing up with that loss; it’s manifested itself into self-esteem issues, trust issues and isolation. Meg tries to push that hurt away by pretending to not care about anything, but it’s impossible to will that kind of hurt away; you have to reach down and take it out of yourself, which is, in a myriad of ways, even more painful. Eventually, you start to begin the process of self-acceptance and self-love. But you gotta go through a lot to get there.
Ava DuVernay’s rendition of Meg Murray is basically me — she is 10-14 year-old Courtney: a sad, lonely Black girl who didn’t fit in, didn’t really have anyone to lean on and always found herself in some kind of trouble.
Meg and I even have similar issues with our hair. When I was 10, it wasn’t cute to have hair that wasn’t straightened. Getting your hair pressed was a must; getting your hair relaxed was a rite of passage. People talked about you if your hair was “all over your head” or, worse yet, still in plaits.
Although it felt slightly anachronistic, (this iteration of the natural hair movement is, thankfully, reaching young Black girls, too) I understood what Meg meant when she told Calvin that she didn’t have nice hair. I get it. Some people won’t, and that’s fine. Not everybody will look at it that way. But I did, and so did DuVernay.
At nearly every turn in Wrinkle, somebody was encouraging Meg to accept her faults and believe in herself. That sounds corny to a lot of people — it probably sounds corny to most. But it didn’t to me because, as a child and as an adult, I have serious issues with doing just that. It’s very, very easy for me to be down on myself all the time. I never grew very far out of those crippling self-esteem issues I had when I was younger.
Having a gigantic image of Oprah saying kind things to this little girl that reminds me so much of myself — and having that same little girl shout, “I deserve to be loved!” in a moment of crisis — felt really good. I kind of needed it.
That being said . . . I get some of the criticism for it.
It’s movie based off a fantasy book that ends up not feeling very fantastical. The film is gorgeous, but the CGI isn’t mind-bending or exhilarating. The worlds that are meant to feel otherworldly don’t always feel otherworldly. I hate to be one of the people who says that the novel is un-adaptable, but I’m pretty sure it is actually un-adaptable. At least DuVernay’s rendition is better than that 2003 one that people either have forgotten about or pretend doesn’t exist. That one had bad graphics, and it didn’t have a soul.
My point is this: A Wrinkle in Time affected me in such a positive way because it’s a movie I wish I’d seen when I was Meg Murray’s age, when I desperately needed somebody to see me in a better way than I saw myself.
Wrinkle is a personal film. It’s a DuVernay project through and through: it’s all about love and light and hope with a little Black girl at the center. And I, for one, am very grateful for it.