Booklist Goes to the Movies: A WRINKLE IN TIME

 

Everyone knows we love books here at Booklist, but we love movies, too! (When we’re not too busy reading to watch them, that is.) We’re excited about the recent spate of film adaptations of kids books, which presents the perfect opportunity to indulge both interests simultaneously. For this post, we saw A Wrinkle in Time—Maggie and I both loved the book when we were younger, but admittedly haven’t read it in a while (I read Hope Larson’s graphic adaptation most recently, but I don’t think that counts), and Briana is a total L’Engle newbie. We chatted about our likes (nostalgia!) our dislikes (Disneyfication!) and our deep, deep loves (Meg Murray! The glitter!).

Sarah: ok, guys. I felt medium about this movie. I adored the book when I was a kid, and I think I went into it with that same nostalgic affection, and it really colored my reaction! I’m worried that I’m incapable of having objective thoughts about it. Well. Except, it was, like, loose? I wanted everything to be tighter. The writing, the pacing, the intergalactic travel. I felt like it hinted at all the things the book did, but I was right there for those hints, so I didn’t really mind. What do you guys think?

Pretty sure my copy was more dog-eared than this one.

Maggie: I sort of felt the opposite, haha. I thought it was too tightly packed together! Like they didn’t give it room to do any of the things the book did. It was like, we’re here! Now we’re here! Now we’re here! Basically we had the same problem in different ways. What I really wanted was for this to be a six-part miniseries.

Briana: YES! All of the scene changes felt abrupt to me, and I never quite knew how or why they were where they were. Having never read the book, I was oblivious to hints, though!

Sarah: I’m so curious about your thoughts, Briana, precisely because you didn’t read the book. What did you think of the overall plot? Also, did you think Charles Wallace was too precocious?

Briana: Yes, but god was he cute. So cute that when it came time for him to be evil, I just wasn’t buying it. I did like Charles Wallace and Meg’s character arcs; one starts out almost overly self-assured and super smart, one starts out incredibly insecure, and then they both kind of soften by the end. It’s like Charles Wallace has everything Meg doesn’t, but then he’s the most vulnerable one in the end! TAKE THAT CHARLES.

Sarah: Oh, interesting. I didn’t think about it that way, but that’s so right.

Maggie: From a character level I appreciate SO MUCH of what this movie is trying to do.

Sarah: Me too! I thought Storm Reid was SO GOOD. She brought everything to that character that I remember loving about Meg Murray in the books.

Dad I’d Like to F . . . ollow to another planet.

Briana: She blew everyone else out of the water. . . except for Chris Pine.

Sarah: Oh man, Chris Pine.

Briana: Disheveled Chris Piiiineeeeee.

Maggie: That salt-and-pepper look is really working on him. What a DILF. Don’t put that in the post.

Sarah: Don’t worry, I won’t. [Editor’s note: haha! I did!] But in retrospect, I feel like Alex Murray is kind of a jerk!

Briana: So selfish!

Sarah: And his lab protocol was shoddy!

Maggie: Well, he’s spent his life thinking about the big picture! BECAUSE, HELLO. . . MEN.

Sarah: MEN!

Briana: MENNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN

Sarah: Responsible moms, always left cleaning up messes!

Maggie: Kate Murray was always about the details. Taking care of the kids, thinking practically AND brilliantly. He realizes that though, I think when he discovers how many years of his kids’ lives he’s missed, it’s like “oh shit.”

Briana: And at the same time, if that happened to you . . . would you really NOT tesser!? Maybe he thought he could just jump in there and jump back and then return with knowledge and proof, and he had no way of knowing he’d get trapped.

Sarah: I was so happy when they reunited. I cried, for real.

Maggie: I like that Calvin was there for that, ha. Like, should you really be here for this touching family reunion, neighbor boy?

Briana: He only left AFTER all was said and done!

Sarah: Calvin was kind of off-putting to me! That actor seems to have one expression, and that was “looking adoringly at Meg Murray,” which, fine.

Briana: I thought his character was so sweet, but that could be because he’s physically a human doll.

He’s right; there’s some great hair on that brilliant brain!

Maggie: Aw, I loved him. I liked how repeatedly blown away by Meg’s brain he was, without being threatened at all by it. Like he was so into how smart she was and he did not care what anyone thought about it. “A physics thing!”

Briana: And he was very adamant about loving her hair.

Sarah: Ok, these are all good points. I rescind my earlier comment.

Maggie: I like how they built all this self-loathing into Meg’s character, and how it affected her tessering without taking anything away from her “Strong Female Character” thing, aka strong female characters are not just girls that act like boys.

Sarah: Yeah, she had real depth and nuance for the whole movie. I think Meg Murray was one of the first characters I read and truly connected to when I was a kid, And it was that awkward, too smart, plagued by self-loathing thing that really struck me at that time in my life. I was surprised by how much I cried in this movie, and I have to say, I cried THE MOST early on! Like, when she’s on the playground and dealing with being made fun of in school. I think it was because I remembered how strongly I connected to her character as a kid and it all came flooding back to me.

Maggie: I know! God, they were SO MEAN to her. Jesus. “Happy anniversary! Too bad you didn’t disappear too.”

Briana: It was over-the-top mean!

Maggie: That wasn’t in the book. You really felt the missing Sandy and Dennys there. They were like the “normal” ones in the book and mitigated some of that teasing.

Briana: BUT, I did appreciate the scene where we see the mean girl really struggling, too. Her sad list!

Sarah: That was such a sad list, but written so prettily! Such a middle-school thing to do.

Maggie: Speaking of mean girls, I do not remember Mrs. Whatsit being that mean to Meg in the book. It’s been a while since I read it, but I remember having more positive feelings toward her.

Sarah: Same here, but I . . . feel like I do remember her being mean?

Maggie: I do remember that she turned into a centaur thing, and not a flying lettuce leaf.

Briana: A careless lettuce leaf!

Sarah: That part was so weird! Maggie, what do you remember from the books? I remember very few concrete details, apart from a general feeling of affinity for Meg Murray, the ball-bouncing scene, Charles Wallace’s precociousness, and liverwurtst sandwiches.

Maggie: I remember it being a lot darker and scarier. A lot less time spent on earth, a lot more time spent on Camazotz. And Meg went with her dad and Calvin when he tessered away, and she was really sick. And AUNT BEAST!!!! RIP AUNT BEAST.

Sarah: Remind me of Aunt Beast!

Maggie: Meg gets like frozen by the darkness when they tesser through it and Aunt Beast is one of the fuzzy tentaclely things that lives on the planet they end up on. Meg is so mad at her dad for taking them away from Charles Wallace that she won’t speak to him, so Aunt Beast is the one that nurses her back to health.

Sarah: Ah ha! This is all starting to come back to me now. And they go back through the neighborhood where the kids were bouncing the balls, and they’re all playing freely after she saves Charles Wallace, right?

Maggie: Yeah. This felt very Disneyfied to me. Like they took the essence of it, but held the darkest parts at arms length. Which maybe is why it felt so fractured. So they did a lot right by the characters, but as a whole it just wasn’t entirely cohesive.

Sarah: That was my feeling, too.

Maggie: And that might just come down to films maybe not trusting their audience in the same way that books do. Because, yeah, sure, a lot of that book was over my head as a kid, a lot of it was dark, and I don’t know if the movie was trying to shield audiences from that or what, but it didn’t need to. It comes down to how much you think kids can handle in a story, and I know a screen is a different medium than the pages, but its always more than you think.

Sarah: It was like the movie latched onto a part of the overall theme of the book and the adventure aspect, but left out a lot of the complexity, which is why I loved that book so much when I was younger.

Maggie: I just wanna take the same cast and have Ava Duvernay direct a Netflix series of it, because I think it needed more room and more trust.

Sarah: 100%, would watch. Briana, does hearing some of this affect how you view the movie now?

Briana: Absolutely, especially knowing darkness was such a huge part of the story. I honestly felt like the very darkest aspect of the movie was Meg’s self-hatred, which seemed very real. And is something that resonates deeply with me and i’m sure 23489234031 other people.

Sarah: And I think the movie tried to tie that to the It, but didn’t quite succeed.

Briana: I would agree with that. Like, Meg’s battle with inner demons was way more compelling than the It battle. But Meg’s battle is something that’s going on throughout the movie, whereas the It battle. . . again, is more abrupt!

Maggie: Wasn’t it a giant brain in the book?

Excluding the missus, naturally, CW is the movie’s snappiest dresser.

Sarah: I think it was, but the It in the movie looked like neuron, so I think it still tracks. I think that’s what I meant by wanting it to be tighter. Like, connecting Meg’s personal battle with her own insecurities to the battle with the It. Again, I think they tried to do that, but it didn’t quite link up for me.

Briana: Why was the It able to possess Charles Wallace to easily?

Sarah: Is it because he’s so trusting?

Maggie: They kind of glossed over that!!!!! It’s his faults, honestly. That he’s so trusting and, well, arrogant. Like, because he’s so smart he tends to think he can just handle things, so he’s usually in danger of getting complacent.

Sarah: which, I think, is why the It was a brain, right?

Maggie: Right. So, in the book he trusted in his own abilities too much and was basically like, “oh, it’s a brain. I can fight it with my brain; i’ll let it in.” But then it took control of him.

Sarah: And that’s why the times table recitation lured him, yeah? By the way, I thought that guy—and that scene—was the spookiest in the whole movie, even though I didn’t really buy Charles Wallace being evil, either.

Maggie: Well, that’s because they left out his negative traits!!! Probably because they didn’t want to make a six-year-old look like a jackass, except that was why that part didn’t totally work. As my first-grade-teacher roommate will tell you, kids can be dicks. Pretending otherwise does everyone a disservice, especially kids, who clearly know better.

See? *literally* incandescent!

Sarah: Is there anything else you guys are dying to talk about regarding the movie that we haven’t touched on?

Briana: I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVED the makeup and the costumes! And the colors. And the glitter.

Sarah: Oh man, the glitter. I was so into it! And the colors! So glowy! Incandescent is a good word to describe that movie, but literally.

Maggie: I like that Oprah was almost always giant.

Briana: I loved that she was just like “I can be whatever size I want!”

Sarah: She’s important! She should look it! I wouldn’t mind a giant, glittery Oprah encouraging me to be my best self. Like, every day.

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e_williamson@att.net'

About the Author:

Sarah Hunter is the Senior Editor of Booklist's Books for Youth department, Maggie Reagan the Associate Editor, and Briana Shemroske its Editorial Assistant. Each enjoys attending movies and chatting about them on Slack.

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