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Ava DuVernay tackles tentpole filmmaking with “A Wrinkle in Time”

It’s positively refreshing to see a director get a chance to work their way up to a blockbuster. Too often these days, one indie hit gets a hotshot filmmaker (let’s face it, always a white dude) the next franchise to helm. It’s rare that this sort of work is a reward for someone who has earned the chance to take their talents to a new level. Even rarer is when it’s someone who’s not the aforementioned white dude. For Ava DuVernay, a string of important critical and cultural success stories has allowed her to become the first woman of color to receive a budget of $100 million for her work. Teaming with Disney to tackle a once thought to be unfilmable novel, she’s brining A Wrinkle in Time to screens. Opening this week, it’s another example of the early section of the year no longer being a dumping ground.

The movie is described on IMDb as such: After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him.” A secondary description states the following: “Following the discovery of a new form of space travel as well as Meg’s father’s disappearance, she, her brother, and her friend must join three magical beings – Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which – to travel across the universe to rescue him from a terrible evil.” All of this should be familiar to fans of the classic book. Storm Reid plays Meg, with her father being portrayed by Chris Pine, while the three magical beings are played by Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey, and Reese Witherspoon. DuVernay directs a script by Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell, with the supporting cast also including Zach Galifianakis, André Holland, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Deric McCabe, Levi Miller, David Oyelowo, Michael Peña, Bellamy Young, and more. Ramin Djawadi contributes the score, while cinematography is by Tobias A. Schliessler.

This film has been met with mixed reviews, a first for DuVernay. It does seem like the source material is more problematic than her work, as well as a somewhat middling screenplay. Essentially, the talent involved seems to make this a bit of a disappointment, though when considering the time of year, it’s hardly a must miss. DuVernay getting to make this movie in and of itself is a win for the industry, so as long as it’s not a financial disappointment, this is an overall success story still. Dreams of a Best Picture nomination are definitely pipe dreams now, but that always seemed like a long shot.

Awards wise, there’s a chance that A Wrinkle in Time becomes a big below the line Oscar player. If we remove the major categories like Best Picture, Best Director (for DuVernay), Best Actress (for Reid), Best Supporting Actor (for Pine), Best Supporting Actress (for Winfrey or Witherspoon), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Lee and Stockwell) from the equation, there are possibilities. Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Hairstyling & Makeup, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song potentially are on the table. Time will tell there, but there’s a possibility at least.

On Friday, DuVernay fans, Disney fans, and fans of the source material alike can see A Wrinkle in Time when it hits worldwide. Reviews aren’t suggesting anything too special, but no one is calling it a disaster either. As a curiosity, it certainly has appeal. It’ll be interesting to see where DuVernay goes from here, as she’s a filmmaker with multiple options at her disposal. For now, the film is entering the world and could have a solid audience with kids. Ambitious movies for children don’t come out every week, so there’s that. And, if nothing else, Disney sure knows how to market to their audience…

Be sure to check out A Wrinkle in Time, in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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