Selma director stumbles with a messy adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s much-loved adventure starring Oprah Winfrey
Quantum physics crumples in Ava DuVernay’s rainbow bright adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, allowing preteen science geek Meg (Storm Reid), her crush (Calvin) and her five-year-old genius brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) to blerp from earth to the screensaver fantasy-lands at the end of the galaxy in search of her missing father (Chris Pine). Everything else is shiny and smooth, including the ancient faces of the three witch-angels who guide the kiddies’ adventure. Mrs Whatsit, the youngest of the trio at two-billion-years-plus, has gotten made-over since L’Engle catalogued her thin gray bun and “mouth puckered like an autumn apple”. Now she looks like Reese Witherspoon – wait, she is Reese Witherspoon – though it can he hard to tell under her hip-length red locks and pleated ballgown fashioned from pilfered sheets.
That Witherspoon looks like a toga party keg-stand champion befits DuVernay’s modern vision of a paperback classic bedazzled to within an inch of its life. (Maybe even closer to death than that – I wouldn’t want to be within a mile of Oprah Winfrey when she realizes her sequined eyebrows just look super silly.) The costumes are at once cluttered and vacuous. The design decree is: “More!” Mrs Whatsit, Winfrey’s Mrs Which and Mindy Kaling’s Mrs Who are plated in extravagant ruffles and braids, but their outfits are such a heedless hot-glue assault, they don’t say a thing about who these characters individually are. They are glitter dolls flung into a technicolor void.
Forget the tykes. Winfrey alights in Meg and Charles Wallace’s backyard as though astrologically assured that she’s the star of the film. Twice the size of everyone else and with her hair curled into an interplanetary fleur de lis, she looms and bobs and radiates love upon all the lesser beings onscreen and in seats. In one scene, a flying Charles Wallace stretches out a small hand to stroke Winfrey’s cheek. It feels like the most sincere shot in the movie.