Ava DuVernay is one of the most inventive, talented directors around who just. As the first woman of color given a $100 million movie the expectations were impossibly high. Not only did she have to make a movie that pleased fans of the book, fans of Disney, and the families who would be taking their kids to see the movie – but also those in the black community, women and every other group marginalized out of mainstream Hollywood. Worse than all of that, she was expected to wow the 50-ish white dudes who populate Rotten Tomatoes for they would determine the film’s fate, mostly, though there is some diversity among the ranks at RT that should not be totally ignored. Something about the whole scenario seemed too risky at first. No one needs to do DuVernay any favors. Film critics were entitled to write what they thought and every opinion is valid. It’s just that film criticism was never meant to be a consensus like Amazon user reviews. You’re not ordering up a dining room table or a pair of socks. You’re talking about subjectivity – about taste.
A Wrinkle in Time is a film I would have loved as a kid. Without access to Rotten Tomatoes I would have no idea that what I was supposed to see was something they didn’t like. I would have simply marveled at where it took me which, in this case, was somewhere I’d never been before. If there is any problem I had with the movie, which I recognized as not being my thing particularly, it was that I felt there was a conflict between the story that wanted to be told and the story that had to be told because it was already a famous book. Just casting the lead with a mixed race young girl changed things enough that the subtext was the part of it that was the most powerful: how to love yourself in a culture that tells you from the beginning that you are all wrong. I love that the casting of Meg was such a subversive act on its own with Storm Reid that young girls seeing this movie will know that black girls can be Disney heroines too. That is not nothing.
For my measly $13 (yes, I paid to see it and you should too) I got quite a ride, much more than that money would have paid for in any other way. Most of the time we pretend that we have so many options for films now. We do, just not at the theater anymore. The risks are too high – even for someone like David Lynch who will never make a film again after what happened with Inland Empire. Why bother? The tastes and expectations have become homogenized, giving us fewer choices rather than more. Sure, the indie world remains mostly diverse and abundant but the big theater movies? Yeah, not so much. Our options for films are becoming like our options for food – just a handful of fast food companies. We think we’re at an international market but really we’re at Ikea, shopping for the same stuff even though it seems like we have choices. Fewer choices means expectations can be met and money can be made. Meanwhile, on TV and streaming there is an abundance of new ideas, experimentation, a medium that isn’t judged by the scores we keep track of.
You should pay to see A Wrinkle in Time to stand up for risk taking of the highest order, by a studio and a filmmaker. Even if it was, as the critics seem too willing to conform to: “uneven” and “flawed” – can you imagine half of the greatest films of all time running that gauntlet? It’s not all that hard to make a movie that plays it safe, gives the audience mostly what it wants. It’s much harder to throw everything on the line to try something strange and different. There are so many worthwhile, memorable things in the film – from a Kubrick-esque basketball scene of suburbia to a human transforming into a leaf – this would be a great movie to watch on an acid burn. DuVernay’s coded message to black girls everywhere threads all through A Wrinkle in Time and in many ways it’s her most personal movie yet. Those moments were worth the time. I hope it earns enough to ensure that women can be trusted to keep making blockbusters. Sooner or later we have to break free from the gauntlet that determines what is good and what it isn’t, the hideous snark that is unnecessary and serves only the ego at zero cost to the critic but at enormous cost to art.