A Wrinkle in Time Oprah Storm Reid

The burden of A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time is a bad film if we’re just going by filmmaking standards. With that said, though, A Wrinkle in Time is a film that has the burden of perfection placed on its shoulders, and it’s a burden it shouldn’t have to carry. The only reason it does is because of the politics and social environment surrounding this film. For many black audiences and POC filmgoers, A Wrinkle in Time’s success is paramount for the progression of inclusive films.

The film, seemingly a passion project for Ava DuVernay, comes at a critical moment when black filmmaking – and black creativity in the mainstream as a whole – is experiencing a watershed moment unlike any we’ve seen since the 1970s. As added pressure, the film comes right after the biggest film ever featuring a black cast, director and crew: Black Panther. As we’ve seen this week, that film has surpassed $1 billion in less than a month. It takes standard “successful” blockbusters months to achieve that feat, and a black-led film has done it in record time. Not only has the film been monetarily successful, it’s become a cultural lightning rod, sparking conversations around the world and even changing the minds of people who had only been fed a diet of stereotypes about blackness. Look to the many Korean moviegoers who talked about how Black Panther changed their lives and their attitudes towards the black diaspora. This paragraph is not meant to wrongly compare A Wrinkle in Time to Black Panther as if they are the same type of movie. It is just important to illustrate the environment of high expectations A Wrinkle in Time has been birthed into.

The expectations the film has placed on itself are high – this is a film that stars newcomer Reid as Meg Murray, reimagined as a biracial girl struggling to fit in. Her adopted brother Charles Wallace, also a biracial character, is played by fellow newcomer McCabe, a Filipino-American boy. Meg’s parents, played by Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, depict the rare interracial relationship on screen. Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which are all multiracial, multicultural beings played by Kaling, Witherspoon and Winfrey. It’s a film championing diversity, inclusion, representation; words that have since become cliche in some circles, but words that still carry the messages Hollywood wrestles with itself to understand.

If you’ve read the various arguments online, there’s a fear that some reviewers out there are simply giving this film a bad analysis just because they’re against social progress. This fear is not unfounded; just look back to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which saw a certain segment of “fans” sabotaging the film’s critical reception just because the film had the nerve to showcase women (including women of color) and men of color in leadership roles. The Last Jedi’s predecessor, The Force Awakens, was attacked by the same scared white dudes who felt a black man couldn’t be the lead of a Star Wars story, somehow forgetting about Lando Calrissian’s presence in the Star Wars canon. Even Black Panther itself was the subject of a Rotten Tomatoes attack by racists before Facebook and Rotten Tomatoes shut down the group’s mobilization.

This trend has been increasingly more bold, but it’s also not anything new. Historically, bad reviews have hurt films starring black actors and other actors of color, giving Hollywood execs the excuse to go back to their comfortable corners and declare “ethnic” films as bad for business. Meanwhile, bad reviews have never hurt films starring white actors and featuring white directors; Michael Bay keeps making awful films, and somehow he stays employed.

a wrinkle in time trailer

A Wrinkle in Time shouldn’t be the only film of its kind

The fear is that a multitude of bad reviews will plague A Wrinkle in Time and prevent Disney and other big studios from taking chances on films featuring non-traditional casts and directors. Clearly, that’s been weighing heavily on my heart and mind as I’ve written this review.

A lot of the pressure would be off the film – and by extension, reviewers like me – if Hollywood simply allowed films made by all people, featuring all people, to exist. DuVernay should be given the grace and space to fail, and to fail spectacularly. Michael Bay fails spectacularly all the time! And yet he still gets employed. Colin Trevorrow fails – Jurassic World wasn’t that great and is often downright regressive – and yet he was given the opportunity to direct a Star Wars (a project he has since departed). Steven Spielberg, someone we typically think of as moviemaking teflon, has had flops, and yet studios still flock to him for films. I could go on and on, but you get the idea – these directors all have something in common, and it’s what differentiates them from an Ava DuVernay. White men get second chances; POC creators and women creators rarely do.

If there were more A Wrinkle in Times out there, I could just review this without caring about the impact of my words. If Hollywood were truly egalitarian, there’d be a plethora of films out there that tell stories about and for everyone. So while A Wrinkle in Time ultimately loses the battle of filmmaking, it still wins the war of instilling hope into younger generations. Little girls who love film can see DuVernay doing great things and start to dream higher of themselves. They can also look to Meg and see how Meg overcame her difficulties and take those lessons into their own lives. It also puts pressure on Disney and other companies to start making more films that cater to more people.

A Wrinkle in Time might not be a good film, but it’s a good starting point for more films like it.

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About the Author

Monique Jones runs JUST ADD COLOR, a site focusing on race and culture in entertainment. She has written for Ebony, Tor, Black Girl Nerds, The Nerds of Color.