Movie Review: The Glass Castle
The Glass Castle is based upon the real life account of author and journalist, Jeannette Walls. It was directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and written by Cretton and Andrew Lanham. The film stars Brie Larson as Jeanette in 1989, which is considered present-day in the film, with Elia Anderson and Chandler Head portraying younger versions of Jeanette. It also stars Woody Harrelson as Rex Walls and Naomi Watts as Rose Mary Walls.
The film begins with Jeannette Walls in 1989 at a dinner in New York City with her fiancé while trying to court a possible client. During the dinner she spins tales of her mother being an artist and her father being an engineer; however, during her ride home from dinner in a taxi, she sees her parents sifting through trash on the streets. Through a series of flashbacks, it is revealed that Jeannette and her siblings grew up constantly moving from city to city, running from authorities and debt collectors. Their unusual upbringing is accented by their parent’s unconventional views on work and life in general and her father’s alcoholism. As details from the past become clearer, though, Jeannette struggles to reconcile her past with who she is now and what is to come in the future.
Overall, The Glass Castle has a phenomenal cast that gave some brilliant performances. Woody Harrelson’s portrayal as Jeannette’s unpredictable father was a true standout, and while Brie Larson was not in an overwhelming amount of the film, she has some shining moments. For most of the film, she’s a young woman angry at her parents’ decisions and the repercussions they had on the lives of her and her siblings. However, there are a few moments when her somber countenance is broken, and it was in those moments that Larson really shone. The actresses who portrayed the younger version of Jeannette also delivered on some incredibly powerful and emotional scenes.
Outside of the performances, the story did move at a slower pace. I wasn’t expecting a fast-paced adventure due to the content, but I do think the film would have benefitted from being slightly shorter. The story was compelling, but I found myself periodically throughout the movie wishing for the next sequence to begin. I would grow tired of being in the past at moments, and then there were also moments where I needed some explanation from the past to inform the current situation.
There were plenty of moments in this movie that were difficult to watch, and perhaps that’s why it’s been so difficult to put together a comprehensive review. Jeannette’s parents chose an unconventional path in raising their children and spending their lives, but there were moments that crossed over the boundaries of abuse and neglect. There were moments when her parents would choose their own wants over food for their children. While I am not a parent, that was difficult for me to swallow. Watts and Harrelson played those parts well; it made it easy to empathize with Jeannette and understand her struggle.
While we could talk for a while about dialogue and pacing, I think that the best part of The Glass Castle was Jeannette’s personal journey. She is now this successful, professional in New York, but it feels dishonest to her upbringing and her parents. However, she cannot live the path her parents chose either since she sees the unhealthy aspects of it. She struggles with forgiveness and empathy and living with broken promises from the people that children should be able to trust the most. I think her journey of trying to reconcile the past is a journey that we can all relate to in the end. Overall, I would say that I loved the heart behind this film and this story, but it can wait for a rainy night at home instead of a trip to the theater.