“The Glass Castle,” available nationwide on August 11, is a movie based upon Jeanette Wells’s 2005 memoir of the same name. It tells the story of Jeanette’s unconventional upbringing, with scenes from her younger childhood in the 1960s, her adolescence in the 1970s and her adulthood in the late 1980s. Walls was a consultant on the film while it was being written and filmed.
Review by Jackie Ruth
Brie Larson stars as the adult Jeanette, who has made a name for herself in New York City writing a gossip column. In the beginning of the movie we see Jeanette at a pricey restaurant with her fiancé David, portrayed by Max Greenfield. They are having dinner with a potential client of David’s and Jeanette is impressing the table not only with her sense of humor, but also with the stories of her parents: her mom is an artist and her dad is an engineer. On her ride home from the dinner, we get a scene that creates questions for the audience and inspires the first flashback to Jeanette’s childhood, where she undergoes physical trauma due to the negligence of her parents.
The film covers the highest highs and lowest lows of Jeanette’s life with her mom Rose Mary (Naomi Watts), dad Rex (Woody Harrelson) and three siblings. Among the high points are a Christmas where the children get gifts and are encouraged to pick a star from the sky to call their own. Among the lows are the times when Rex’s alcoholism led him to betray his wife and children, attacking them or drinking so much there’s no money left for food. Even the titular Glass Castle is one of Rex’s broken promises to his family.
Larson captures the complicated emotions that Jeanette has regarding her family, her fiancé and her career, visibly conflicted but not saying a word about it. There are times she knows she has to choose between her new life and her old one-knowing they’re irreconcilable. Not unexpectedly, Harrelson also rises to the occasion in his role as Rex. An alcoholic who occasionally escalates to abusive, Rex is not an easy character to like, but he has several moments of sensitivity and vulnerability in the film that humanize him beyond a stereotype. While the importance of family could be seen as a big takeaway from “The Glass Castle,” the story mainly focuses on the relationship between Rex and Jeanette over the years.
“The Glass Castle” is much more than a dysfunctional family drama-it outlines a way of life not everyone has experienced. The Walls family life was transient for most of the children’s lives, and even when they had a home it was temporary. While Rose Mary and Rex insisted they were living a life of freedom, their kids realized more and more as they grew older that this was no proper way of life, never having attended a school and rarely getting health care. Despite these lessons of a hard life, the movie is somewhat of an inspirational feel-good film. It isn’t a happy film, but it certainly isn’t as melancholy overall as one might expect.
As a PG-13 movie, “The Glass Castle” has a few scenes depicting disturbing sexual and violent content, but nothing very graphic. Director Destin Daniel Cretton shows just enough for the audience to get an idea of the events and their implications. For those who love family dramas and masterclass acting skills, “The Glass Castle” will be a must-see this year.
“The Glass Castle” is in theaters now! Let us know what you think of the film by tweeting at us @ShuffleOnline with #TheGlassCastle.
Originally hailing from Pennsylvania, Jackie has called Austin home since choosing to attend the University of Texas, where she graduated with a degree in multimedia journalism. She loves spending time with her dog, writing about pop culture in all its forms and spending time with friends – eating, drinking and doing trivia. You can follow Jackie on Twitter and Instagram.