by Gerry Conway
“A Wrinkle In Time” is a disappointing movie.
I went in with high hopes and left deeply annoyed and saddened.
Tonally, it’s a mess. Every single actor seems to be performing in a different movie.
Poor Storm Reid, who seems to have considerable potential, has been misguided into giving a one-note, sullen performance, charmless and flat.
But she isn’t alone– every actor’s performance works against the film. Perfect illustration? Zach Galifianakis as “The Happy Medium.” As his name implies, the character of “Happy Medium” is clearly meant to represent the happiness that comes with a balanced temperament – but Galifianakas plays “The Happy Medium” with restrained snark: mildly impatient, vaguely misanthropic, a fussy introvert whose exterior dismissiveness supposedly conceals a warm heart.
His costume is somber browns; his “cave of balance” looks like a threatening maze of treacherous balance beams out of a dark “American Gladiator.” How does this represent “The Happy Medium?” It’s completely wrong-headed, massively tone-deaf to the underlying material.
There’s only one person to blame for this misfire: the director, Ava DuVernay.
Early word on the film indicated there were tonal issues, and at the time I discounted them – I think it’s quite possible to tread a line between serious and sweet, realistic and fantastic, but it requires a deft touch and a deep sympathy with the ultimate story you’re trying to tell.
In order to tell a serious story set in a fantasy world, you need to love fantasy first, love it so much its common tropes are second nature to your storytelling. Ava DuVernay displays no such sympathy or love for fantasy. Her heart is clearly on the side of “serious” and “realistic” storytelling.
I’m not sure why Disney imagined the woman who directed the brilliant “Selma” and episodes of “Scandal” would be the perfect choice to direct a film that should have embraced the light (but still serious) tone of a “Mary Poppins,” but it was a bad move.
I was rooting for DuVernay because I’m someone who believes we need more diversity among the people empowered to tell stories in film. I still think so. But that doesn’t mean every person is equipped temperamentally to tell every kind of story.
From the evidence of “A Wrinkle In Time,” no matter how fine a director she may be of other kinds of films, DuVernay is a terrible director of fantasy.
Gerry Conway is one of the Kings of TV and film and comic book writing and also one of our Beloved Leader Larry Brody’s longest-lasting and closest friends. Everybody who comes to TVWriter™ should be reading his insightful blog, where this article first appeared. Learn more about Gerry HERE.