"Woody Harrelson Delivers a truly break-your-heart performance"
I am surprised that a best selling memoir, which stars Oscar winner Brie Larson and Oscar nominees Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson would not be given more marketing. I myself, therefore, will pay it the tribute it rightfully deserves.
The Glass Castle is based on the 2005 memoir by Jeannette Walls, it recounts the rather unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing that Walls and her siblings went through, and their extremely dysfunctional parents.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the film, as well as its craftsmanship, which delves into the life of a New York magazine gossip columnist. Walls' father was an alcoholic, who fought against the world and what it represented and her mother showed more interest toward painting than her children, or at least, so it would seem.
Walls' memoir focuses on her early life and how she manages to slip away from her gloomy existence, raised on the road, and in West Virginia, she ends up in New York City, covering the celebrity scene. It is ironic then when her parents Rex (Woody Harrelson) and Rose Mary (Naomi Watts) end up in NYC themselves but homeless on the Lower East Side, and then squatting in a derelict building.
The film is by writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton, who previously made indie faavourite Short Term 12, which also stars Larson. It effectively underlines the loose ties we can have with our family, and yet each one of us will strive to make something of ourselves.
The film flashes between Jeanette as a child (played by Chandler Head and later in the film Ella Anderson, during her teenage years), her three siblings and parents, to her professional life in New York City around 1989. At that time she was engaged to David (Max Greenfield), a successful financial advisor but was reluctant in breaking the news to her parents. Cretton travels through the different time periods well as she tells the story but is also helped along by a good cast.
Harrelson gives a flawless performance, and perhaps his most truthful to date, playing Rex, who battles the demon drink. Doubly does this impact on his family as they move from town to town, and he from job to job. In the end they take up residence in West Virginia, his home state. He discusses his grand schemes of turning an otherwise falling-down-home into a vision of excellence. The film’s title derives from the glass window panes he pays reference to but it is these dreams that stop him from falling apart.
This, after all, is a father whose idea of a Christmas present is a star in the sky. Jeanette sees him as a dreamer type, who passes his traits on to his children. She presents every side of him to us, to the point where one cannot help but be emotionally moved. Watts and Larson also turn in fine performances, as do the supporting cast, most especially Robin Bartlett who plays Rex’s rather unnerving mother, Irma.