I went to see A Wrinkle in Time last night because I wanted to support Ava DuVernay the same way I supported Ryan Coogler and see her film on opening night. I was hoping to have a similar movie-going experience to the one I had with Black Panther, but sadly, I did not.
Firstly, when I got to the theater, I noticed there wasn’t a large A Wrinkle in Time movie poster in the front of the lobby as there had been for Black Panther, which I thought was odd. There wasn’t A Wrinkle in Time movie poster in the hallway leading to the theater my showing was in either. So if you were a little girl who wanted to take a picture with Meg Murry, the film’s protagonist, as you may have done with T’Challa, you were out of luck.
As I went to the 10 P.M. showing, there weren’t many little girls in the theater with me and I saw no one wearing A Wrinkle in Time-inspired clothing, unlike almost all of the movie-goers I watched Black Panther with. I was also disappointed the showing wasn’t sold out, though the two previous showings were. Here in Atlanta, kids are out of school next week for spring break so some people may already be out of town.
I’ve never read A Wrinkle in Time, so I didn’t know Meg was written as a shy, awkward teenager, which I think many teenagers, and some adults, can relate to. However, in my opinion, Meg doubted herself for far too long in this movie. She didn’t come into her own until the last quarter of it, which in a way, is more realistic because people don’t drastically change overnight. But this is a science-fiction movie, I wasn’t there for realism.
I was also bothered by the choice to make Meg biracial, as opposed to her having two Black parents. If you want Black girls to be inspired by seeing themselves on-screen, then show them the full range of themselves. I read a piece about how dangerous it is that the majority of Black girls on TV and in film are biracial, light-skinned and have curly hair. The piece asked what this teaches brown and dark-skinned Black girls. Does it teach them they’re not as worthy of being seen as lighter-skinned girls with “nicer” hair? Does it make them hate how they look? I would argue it does both these things.
I saw an article that said Ava had to fight to get Storm Reid cast as Meg, so maybe making the character biracial was a compromise she reached with Disney. It’s great that Storm Reid got this part and I think she did a beautiful job, but I may have loved this film more if Meg was played by a brown or dark-skinned Black girl. I also think by making her father white, an opportunity was missed to show a Black man as a loving father.
I was also bothered that a light-skinned, biracial, curly-haired woman, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, played Meg’s mother. Her father is white, there’s no reason her mother couldn’t have been brown or dark-skinned. Meg’s complexion and hair would still have been believable. Maybe Ava, or Disney, wanted Meg to look like her mother and that’s why Gugu was cast. Even so, I would’ve loved to see a darker-skinned woman in that role. I love Gugu though.
Don’t get me wrong, I hate to be this person: the person who’s like, “Yeah, this thing is great, but it would have been so much better if only they’d done this!” The person who won’t let you just enjoy something you love. But now I live in a world where I’ve seen Black Panther and nothing is the same. Before Black Panther, the casting of Meg and her mother may not have bothered me as much.
Also, I loved that the Mrs. W’s were quirky and weird, but the only one of them that resonated with me was Mrs. Which, played wisely, maternally and perfectly by the incomparable Oprah. Though I love Mindy Kaling and thought it was cool she spoke mostly using quotes from other people because she’s “transcended language,” her character didn’t have enough lines for me and the way Kaling played her was somehow either not quirky enough or too quirky for me, I’m not sure which.
The only time I connected with this film was when Meg was struggling to bring Charles Wallace, her little brother, back from the dark side. She was screaming at him that he loved her and that she loved him. It worked. Love destroyed the It.
That’s when tears started streaming down my face. During this cinematic moment, I felt my grandmother say to me, “Feel my love and I’ll be with you.” It almost brings tears to my eyes now as I type this. Feeling my grandmother’s love is how I can keep her close to me. The downside is feeling her love brings me a lot of sadness because it also reminds me she’s left this world. It reminds me I’ll never hug or kiss her again.
Meg’s grief over losing her father is one thing A Wrinkle in Time gets right. The scene where all of the children are playing with balls in gym class, except Meg, who’s just standing there really captures how isolating it is to lose someone close to you. The anger she feels is quite realistic as well. When the principal tells her your father’s been gone for four years, he’s probably not coming back and you need to move on, I wanted to slap him. The only people who are so ready for you to move on from the loss of a close loved one are the people who’ve never experienced it.
To sum up, A Wrinkle in Time has many visually stunning moments, but it just wasn’t for me. That may be because I’m an adult, but I don’t think so. I think Selma and the two episodes of Queen Sugar Ava directed are perfect. I’m not sure what went wrong here. It may be that Disney was heavily involved and Ava wasn’t allowed to make the exact film she wanted. I just hope that the mixed reviews for this film don’t prevent Ava, or other Black woman directors, from getting opportunities as big as this one in the future.