*/**** Image A- Sound A- Extras B
starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine
screenplay by Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell, based on the novel by Madeleine L'Engle
directed by Ava DuVernay
by Walter Chaw In Beyond the Lights, another, much better film featuring Gugu Mbatha-Raw (directed by another woman of colour, Gina Prince-Bythewood), there is a moment where her character decides to un-straighten her hair and own who she is, damn the torpedoes, and it lands like what a revolution feels like. Or, at least, it lands like what a personal epiphany feels like. In Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle In Time, a little white boy named Calvin (Pan's Levi Miller), with whom heroine Meg (Storm Reid) is creepily smitten, tells her, twice (twice), that he likes her hair, getting an awkward brush off the first time and a shy "thanks" the second. This is what passes for empowerment in a film fixated on empowerment. I think it's probably a mistake to have Meg's sense of self-worth hinge on the approval--at least in this cultural moment--of a white dude. There are fraught politics around a black woman's hair and A Wrinkle In Time uses it as a cruel tease again when there's talk by the evil IT (voiced by David Oyelowo) of Meg straightening her locks before being presented with a "perfect" doppelgänger, free of her nerd glasses, glammed up, hair un-kinked, as one possible outcome for her. It's the key visual metaphor in a film garnering some measure of praise mainly for how it's not for anyone who is "cynical" (or an adult). That, and its visual audacity--which in any other context would be derided for its overreliance on the same, along with the picture's anachronistic amateurishness. Turning Reese Witherspoon into a smug piece of salad is probably not the best use of all those millions of dollars.