Movie, Reviews

“The Glass Castle” Dealing with Dysfunction

This interesting biography takes you back to days when the going was tough and families were economizing their lives. It’s a parody of even today’s society of lost jobs and stretching income that seems to invade every generation. But, The Glass Castle shows how one family survived life’s up and downs in this true story based on Jeannette Walls’s bestseller book. The film’s cast proves to be the main winner here with their tour de force performances.

It’s 1989 and Jeannette Walls (Brie Larson) has just left a club in a taxi. Passing by a shabby an area of town the cab slows down to avoid a homeless couple going through garbage. A gasping look on her face, Jeannette tries to avoid being noticed. Flash back to when Jeannette was a child and Rex (Woody Harrelson) and Rose Mary Wall (Naomi Watts) are tending their kids Youngest Jeannette (Chandler Head) Youngest Maureen (Eden Grace Redfield), Youngest Brian (Ian Armitage) and Youngest Lori (Olivia Kate Rice).

Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts, Ella Anderson, Sadie Sink, Charlie Shotwell, and Eden Grace Redfield in THE GLASS CASTLE

The family evolves throughout the early years dealing with their income, alcoholism, child abuse, false promises and even a pedophile incident. Within in all the misery is a loving relationship that seeps to the top as we follow the Walls family and feel their pain, questionable futures and even some good times.

Naomi Watts as Rose Mary and Chandler Head as Jeannette in THE GLASS CASTLE

Director Destin Daniel Cretton has a good script to draw from that’s told by the actual Jeannette Walls who became a noted columnist with features in New Yorker Magazine and Esquire. But, although he had a stellar cast that certainly carries the film on their backs, the film fails to inspire loosing it’s punch with flashbacks that often tend to deliver a ho hum reaction.

Jeannette’s (Brie Larson) New York life could have been focused on more before showing the consequences in the finale so the audience has a chance to empathize with her choices in life. The other kids stories are only touched on in their older years as well and it would have been interesting to have a closer look at them. But, it’s a story through the eyes of Jeannette and the length of the film would have been overwhelming.

Woody Harrelson and Ella Anderson in THE GLASS CASTLE

The acting and character development especially with Rex, Rose Mary and Jeannette are excellent in the film. Woody Harrelson looks ageless from start to finish and for that the make-up and possibly CGI masters need to take the credit. But, what makes Harrelson a stand-out as Rex is the change he goes though from the results of his alcohol abuse and his adverse decisions involving the children.

Rex (Woody Harrelson) ,gets introduced to David (Max Greenfield) as Jeannette”s, (Brie Larson) fiance in THE GLASS CASTLE

As his loyal and subservient wife Rose Mary, Naomi Watts gives an astounding performance showing the loyalty to her husband, even turning a blind eye to his sometimes low esteem involving the future of the family. She loves her children, but at times it doesn’t register on the screen, especially when it comes to food and clothing. Hard times show Rose Mary’s transition from a dream of becoming a great artist to the realization that it will never happen.

Brie Larson who took the Best Actress Oscar for The Room continues to be an audience pleaser. With the help of two other actors (Ella Anderson and Chandler Head) who develop her character from early childhood, we see the results from the many years of dashed hopes and impossible dreams. She’s now a successful self-made person and has to deal with her parents who have hit skid row. With her attitude at high negative, she gropes for one last chance to come to grips with her past.

Glass Castle has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for mature thematic content involving family dysfunction, and for some language and smoking. There are also scenes of drinking, minor violence and an act of pedophilia so be cautions when wanting to bring immature children to see the film.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Excellent acting carries this family drama to above average.

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Brie Larson, Max Greenfield, Sara Snook, Naomi Watts, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Josh Caras. Sadie Sink, Charlie Shotwell, Ella Anderson, Eden Grace Redfield.
Directed and co-writer by:  Destin Daniel Cretton
Genre: Drama, Biography
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic content involving family dysfunction, and for some language and smoking
Running Time: 2 hrs. 7 min.
Release Date: August 11, 2017
Distributed by: Lionsgate

The comments within this review are the critic’s expressed opinions.

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Film Editor John Delia has been on all sides of the movie business from publications to film making. He has worked as a film critic with ACED Magazine for more than 11 years and earned a Bachelors degree in communications from the University of Florida. John is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association. Follow John on Twitter @staragent1 or send John a message at jdelia@acedmagazine.com