The Glass Castle Review
The Glass Castle is a drama film directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and written by Cretton, Andrew Lanham, and Marti Noxon and is based on Jeannette Walls' memoir of the same name. The film stars Brie Larson as Walls with her parents played by Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson. Her fiance and sister were played by Max Greenfield and Sarah Snook, respectively.
The Story/The Direction:
The plot follows Walls' real-life childhood spent squatting in homes and living in poverty. You see how she and her siblings escaped the squatting life in West Virginia to New York and being a gossip journalist. This film flashes back and forth between Jeanette as a child and her as an adult in 1989 where she's engaged to a financial advisor David Greenfield), but afraid to tell her parents. Her childhood is filled with acts by her alcoholic father and her mother who seems to be more interested in her paintings than her kids.
Cretton is able to tell a powerful story of being proud of where you come from even if it's not the best of experiences. A person's past can shape who they are today no matter the positive or negative aspect. Cretton is helped mainly by the fine cast who make you care for these well developed characters throughout their lives.
As Rex, Harrelson is perhaps the best he has ever been. He plays an alcoholic father that really wants to care for his family. He has all these aspirations that never really play out because he is always in between jobs if he is able to find one. He is not able to buy Christmas gifts for his children and but gives them stars in the sky. When they settle in West Virginia, he wants to refurbish the house with huge glass window panes as per the title. This unfortunately never plays out even as he keeps saying it will. Harrelson is supported extremely well by Harris who plays a mom who is in her own world. She is especially good when she is interacting with grown-up Jeanette played by Larson who also does very well here. While it's not an Academy Award-winning performance, you see her continuation of great acting. I also think the performance of Ella Anderson as teen Jeanette is very good.
One of the flaws that I had was that while Jeanette and Rex were well developed, the siblings were not as much. You feel that Jeanette's relationship with them has the possibility of being a strong one but it's not executed well. I think more scenes with their interactions with each other could have helped that. I also feel the film only touched on Mary Rose. She could have been a very interesting character as she is someone who is an abusive relationship with a drunk but chooses to stick by him. There were also plot points that pretty much went nowhere or barely touched on such as the situation that happened with her brother or Rex's relationship with his mother. On these instances, the film seemed to only give a surface value of what could have been a very intense moment and/or development of a character. Another flaw was how the film dealt with going back and forth between the past and present. Every time the present came up, I wanted the past to come back because that's where the emotion was. This choice to go back and forth also took some emotion away from the past. For example, there's a bit dealing with Rex's alcoholism and him attempting to stop drinking. The film tries to make this scene really powerful but present has shown him drinking so you know this doesn't hold up. I also was not really a fan of Greenfield's character. While he may be trying to represent Jeanette's new life, he came off as a bit of a jerk, to put it nicely. There's a scene where he essentially gives an ultimatum about his issues with Jeanette's family. This did not seem like he cared for Jeanette and what she was going through. This was a problem because it made me care less about Jeanette's new life. At the end of the day, Rex and Mary Rose did care for her in their own way. While the book apparently says that they married and divorced, this relationship doesn't go anywhere and you could assume they end up together but then he is not existent in the final scene. In the book, she apparently gets remarried to someone but here there's none of that and she may just be living by herself. That's fine if that's it but you aren't given any closure on the relationship that was such a big deal to Jeanette to bring up to her parents.
Having not read the book, I cannot say too much in comparison. I think the performances in this film make it worth watching, especially for Harrelson's fantastic job. If you don't see it in theatres, that's probably okay but I'd definitely check out this touching story at least once. I could maybe see myself watching this film again.
Rating: 3.0/5.0 bowties
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