“The Glass Castle” – 8 out of 10
In a word: Heartrending
If you’ve been a parent or child of a loved one who’s suffered from addiction, or are close to others who were similarly victimized, this movie will bring it home.
Based on a true story and a Best Selling memoir written by Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle introduces us into the nomadic family life of two dirt poor parents and their four dirt poor offspring, told mainly from the viewpoint of Jeanette, the second youngest of the four who eventually pulled herself up from the bottom rung of society into a successful author, writer and gossip columnist.
The nomadic family is shuttled from shanty to shanty in California, Arizona and West Virginia by the father, Rex Walls, a hopeless but gregarious alcoholic with big dreams and innate smarts, but unable to follow through on anything, forcing his kids, and his wife (Naomi Watts), to live in squalor.
While the movie portrays Rex Walls (Woody Harrelson) as a basic loving man out of control, the fallout from his actions and inactions create chaos and turmoil – and hunger – among the kids while the mother has little power to alter the lopsided path of the family’s destiny.
This is one of those movies that flip in and out of flashback, perhaps a bit too much. The character of Jeanette is deftly portrayed (as adult) by Brie Larson, and as a child in two separate periods, one by Ella Anderson and the other, Chandler Head. The performance by Anderson is particularly superb. If you have a heart, you’ll be pouring it out to that poor child and her siblings, being forced, hopelessly, into a miserable existence while their father drinks himself into oblivion. In the end, one cannot help but admire her strength.
Look for an Academy Award nomination for Woody Harrelson, who played his part almost too realistically. Naomi Watts, who is a fine actress, was miscast in this role because she’s simply too beautiful, too young and too clean for the part. As for Harrelson, the make-up department and/or the director should have let his whiskers grow before shooting close-ups, it would have been more authentic.
Having lived with, over and under people suffering with addiction, I understood what the emotional roller coaster the author experienced while penning this story and dealing with vivid memories. I wondered how often she had to stop and compose herself before getting to the end of each chapter.
The movie has its flaws, but the power of the story – which no doubt is duplicated a million times across America – captures the viewer’s sympathies. Author, Jeanette Walls – and her siblings – is to be commended.
I give it 8 out of 10.