One of the best things about director Ava DuVernay‘s A Wrinkle In Time is how it makes themes about representation and identity easily digestible for a younger audience.
Based on author Madeleine L’Engle‘s novel of the same name, the film uses those timeless issues that affect children and turns it into a sci-fi fantasy adventure with an all-star cast led by the up and coming Storm Reid.
We, along with our fellow journalists, were recently invited to the film’s press junket where the cast and director talked about those themes and how they hope it reaches audiences of all ages.
Mindy Kaling, who plays Mrs. Who, who has habit of talking by using quotations from famous writers and musicians, said she finally gets to be a part of a genre film that didn’t show much love to her in the past. Despite that, she continued to appreciate sci-fi and fantasy, and now can be a part of something she never thought she could be a part of.
“I love science fiction and fantasy, and growing up it was a genre that largely did not love me back,” Kaling said. “I never saw representation of dark-skinned Indian women or an Indian girls in anything that I saw. So it is a really peculiar thing when you grow up loving something that show you love you back. It’s such a pure love, because you are not getting anything from it. To be part of this movie, on a green screen stage, in harnesses doing a science fiction and fantasy movie, it’s so fun, because I finally feel welcomed with open arms to something that has ignored me completely. That is so profound. I think if that could be given to the miniature version of me to watch and be excited by, it’s such a huge thing.”
DuVernay’s films are ambitious and visionary, with each of them presenting a thought-provoking story to its audience. For A Wrinkle In Time, we get to see Meg and her much younger brother live with their a single mother. As rumors about their father Dr. Alex Murray’s disappearance spread, it’s up to them to figure out how they could bring them back.
So with the help of three celestial beings, they journey across time and space to find their father, and get help from the Happy Medium (Zack Galifianakis). The actor talked a little bit about being a part of the movie and how it addresses the toxic masculinity that boys learn at such a young age.
“When you are a part of a big movie like this, I feel really proud,” Galifianakis added. “Ava knows this, and I can’t really talk about this without getting emotional, when I first met Ava it was something about her that made me, I don’t know what it was, but that made me emotional. I feel real proud.”
DuVernay chimed in saying that what Galifianakis said that resonated with her the most was that how boys would react to seeing the film. “We talk about girls seeing the film, but he was the first person who said this is for boys too,” DuVernay said. “Boys need to be able to see themselves be vulnerable and themselves being able to a girl, and not always have to be macho.”
“I think it’s good because it’s nice for young boys to say it’s okay to have a sensitive side,” Galifianakis said. “I think young boys in this climate if they are seen as sensitive, they are made fun of. But that means they are stronger and I wish we could change that.” The actor said how he comes from a very masculine family, and while a lot are still today, and he has no regrets about his upbringing, “looking back we need balance. It’s time for balance.”
For Levi Miller, who plays Calvin, growing up with 12 sisters helped him get comfortable in a role that required him to “trust” the female lead. Addressing the “toxic masculinity” that is “rampant” now, he agreed with the film’s overall message adding “it’s a very special story and something that everybody needs to know.”
So the film, which is based on a young adult novel, may not be for mature audiences or adults. However, DuVernay asks that that same demographic look at the film through the lens of a child.
“This is a film for young people and people who are young at heart. For me, I asked myself, do I have a heart and is there an inner child still in me. So I tapped into the 11-year-old, the 12-year-old, the 13-year-old in me,” DuVernay said. “I found that light I used to have in me when I was a dreamer. So I got to do that for two years. I got to get in touch with all that I thought I would be when I was young and really tap into that and create some magic with this great group of people.”
Jennifer Lee, the film’s writer, agreed. “What makes Wrinkle so amazing and what has resonated for decades and decades is that there is a timeless quality that Meg is dealing with. We did look a lot at what are those themes today and what do they mean today, and how do you stay true to that and reinterpret them in a way where we can say this is our world, this is what we understand,” Lee said. “So we just had a lot of conversations about what we were inspired by, what that meant to us growing up, and what that means to the children in the world now.”
Chris Pine, who plays Dr. Alex Murray, talked about how some of the themes addressed in the film, could have a dangerous affect on future generations. “We forget that a lot of dumb kids become dumb adults,” Pine said. “Just look at what’s happening in the world. There’s a big verb that we want to harden schools. What an interesting word, ‘harden,’” he continued. “You want to make the most beautiful supple creatures, children, you want to harden that? What are you talking about?”
“This was an extraordinary experience for me, to sit here with all of them, because we really held hands on this and became a family,” DuVernay chimed. “We tried to just give a little bit of sweetness to the world in these dark times. It’s a dark time right now and so this film saved me in a lot of ways from going down dark holes and it kept me in a really light-filled place, so I’m grateful for the past few years working on A Wrinkle in Time.”
The director admits that this is a film that she needed to do in such dark times. And by giving this film, which she sees as one of her children, to the world, she feels like she is bringing the light back.
“We’re living in a chaotic time as adults, so imagine when you’ve only been on this earth for 10 years or 11 years, and the tension that you feel,” DuVernay said. “So to be able to be able to give a little breather and to say who you are is enough and this is who you are to make it through, but finding something in yourself that guides you. We all have that little voice inside of us and a lot of times we don’t listen to it.”
Reid, who plays Meg, the film’s lead protagonist, says she was more excited than nervous about the movie coming out, and she admits that she is usually a nervous person. “This is our baby, and this is our thing that we created, and we love it so much, and it is so great, but we are giving it to people for them to criticize it, for them to like or love it, or not like it at all, so that is a little bit nerve-racking. But I feel like we did a really good job and I am proud of us all. So I am really happy and it is a blessing,” Reid said.
Reese Witherspoon, who plays the sassy Mrs. Whatsit, was flattered to be chosen by Ava and be a part of her movies. “She doesn’t just make movies, she makes an experience for everyone,” Witherspoon said. “She cares about what happens in front of the camera and she cares about what happens behind the camera. Everyone feels like they are special, honored, valued for their contributions, and I feel like this was a master’s class in how to be a very thoughtful filmmaker. And a real visionary in many ways.”
Oprah Winfrey, who plays the wise Mrs. Which, hopes that the film can restore the light that has dimmed. “Oh, yeah. For sure. I think the darkness is there to help bring out the light in all of us,” Winfrey said. “If we turn out all the lights in this room and one person just held a candle, we would start to dissipate the darkness. Look at how much darkness it would take to actually envelope all the light that every candle we’re holding in this room. It just takes a little bit of light.”
A Wrinkle In Time opens in theaters on March 9, 2018.
Click right here for more on the film including trailers.