The Glass Castle (2017) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
139 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Irritatingly 'Hollywood' adaptation of an incredible book
martha-adam117 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I read the book last week so it was fresh in my mind when I went to see the film, and I know this will sound like another book lover whining "the book was better" but this is absolutely the case. If you haven't read Walls' memoir, it is a beautifully written, honest account of a childhood with parents who were selfish and neglectful to an absurd degree. One of the best things about it is that Walls writes without any self pity and focuses the story on how she and her siblings survived thanks to their resourcefulness despite the ridiculous things her parents did. It is emotional because the reader is left to make their own judgement rather than the author telling us to pity her for how awful it was.

What blows my mind is how the Hollywood misogyny machine managed to make the entire film about the father. Yes the father is a huge part of the story, and the author had a closer relationship with him than some of her siblings, but the film made him out to be some kind of anti-hero. We are directed to see how flawed and imperfect he is in a "yeah he did some bad things but really he was great" kind of way with the result that you come away feeling like he really tried his best and nothing was really his fault. All of this is at the expense of the mother being a developed character - in the film she is a 'battered wife' stereotype, whereas in real life she was just as selfish and neglectful, and as accountable as the father. The memoir gives a variety of instances such as when the children had not eaten for days and found the mother eating from her hoard of chocolate bars; or when the kids found a diamond ring and the mother refused to sell it to pay for food because it could replace the engagement ring the father never got her and her self-esteem was more important!

The resolution of the film was the part that made me the most angry. Brie Larson tearfully tells her husband she's leaving the restaurant (of course she really means leave the marriage), removes her heels and starts running down the road to get to her dying father - what the hell?! Followed by an emotional deathbed reconciliation with the father and the final Thanksgiving scene where Larson sobs "I feel so lucky" before the family toast to the father as if all is forgiven - it was so saccharine it made me want to vomit.

Ultimately the whole film relied on stereotypes - the tortured alcoholic father, the weak mother, Larson as a cold career woman who ultimately decides her dysfunctional-yet-lovable family are more important than money and success. All of this dumbed it down just enough to be just another story of a man doing whatever the hell he wants and ultimately being forgiven in the end because deep down he had a good heart and wiped out all of the parts of the original memoir that made it such a riveting, unforgettable read.

My final gripe is the choice to switch from the child to adult actors during some of the later childhood scenes. Of course this is common and does involve some suspension of disbelief, however it was particularly uncomfortable during the scene in the bar with Robbie. Now then, it's pretty bad that Rex pretty much gives Robbie permission to take his daughter upstairs and do whatever he wants because she can take care of herself. In the film, we're invited to feel sympathetic towards Rex (again) because he's just found out his beloved Mountain Goat is planning to leave him. He's hurt, he's betrayed, so why should he come to her defence right? So she goes upstairs with Robbie, he tries to rape her but she gets away by showing him her "ugly scars". She's played by Larson at this point and she's about to move to NYC, so how old would we imagine she is, late teens? Well folks, here's a revelation for you - SHE WAS THIRTEEN. In real life that wasn't an ill-judged incident brought on by Rex's grief for his abusive mother, no, he deliberately took his 13-year-old daughter to the bar with the express purpose of using her to charm older men so that he win their money. He then does nothing to stop said older men taking his 13-year-old daughter upstairs and it's only at that point that the film and the book line up. But let's remember she was THIRTEEN. What angers me is the fact that the filmmakers decided they wanted to put that scene in (presumably for some kind of shock value) but decided that it was a little too shocking, so we'll water it down by having an adult actor and throwing in more emotional context that makes the father slightly less of an asshole and puts more responsibility on his adult daughter to look after herself. Because if the real story had been shown, we might be a bit too angry with the father to be OK with the nice little deathbed reconciliation. See my problem?

What I will say, is that this film was very well acted, particularly by Larson and Harrelson. I still found myself drawn in and welling up in some of the more emotional scenes, so perhaps if you haven't got the book to compare it to, you may like it. It's only that that makes it a 5 rather than a 2 for me; though I'm still irritated that most of the elements that made the book so good have been cut to satisfy Hollywood's apparently insatiable appetite for stories about middle-aged white men.
164 out of 187 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
proniomj12 August 2017
As the sister of someone extremely like Rex, I was disturbed, heart- broken, and reminded of my life growing up with an unpredictable, intelligent, unstable, and sometimes very charming man. His children loved him inexplicably but they are still living with the effects of their tumultuous life.

This movie, in my opinion, was fabulous. It was well paced and the dual story lines of past and current day melded beautifully. All of the acting was superb. Woody Harrelson deserves an Academy Award and all of the child actors were phenomenal. I was especially impressed by Ella Anderson who played young Jeannette. She expressed so clearly her emotions, both love, hurt, and anger at her father and with that I believe she also deserves kudos.

Go see this movie if you enjoy deep, emotional, thought-provoking films.
98 out of 123 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Fails to capture much of what was good about the book
jmc476920 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The Glass Castle was one of my favorite books that I've read recently. But unfortunately, the movie fails to capture much of what was good about the book:

1. In the book the story is told from Jeanette's perspective. She is the narrator and the main character. In the movie there is no narrator and you could make the case that the main character is not Jeanette, but her father, Rex.

2. In the book the main focus is on how the children, through their resourcefulness, are able to overcome horrible parenting. The movie devotes some attention to the children's resourcefulness. But the main focus is on the father's child abuse and neglect, which makes the movie much darker than the book.

3. Except in one dramatic scene that occurs near the beginning, the movie places the blame for most of the bad things that happen to the family squarely on the shoulders of Jeanette's father. But in the book Jeanette's mother is almost as responsible for the family's down and out situation. In one memorable scene in the book (missing from the movie), the children, after going hungry for days, find their mother hiding under a blanket eating from her hoard of chocolate bars.

4. Most of the movie takes place after the family moves to West Virginia, which is the most difficult and depressing time period for the family. Almost all of the lighthearted, funny, and enjoyable parts of the book happen when the family is living out west, before they move to West Virginia. But the movie just skims over that part of the story.

5. The movie has a sentimental, "Hollywood" ending which is not true to the more realistic ending in the book.
57 out of 76 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Made Especially for the Wounded Warrior.
MHeying777-114 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is the film of the century for wounded warriors like myself who survived severe childhood trauma and chaos. I sat down in the theater and it was over in a blink.

I sobbed in more than a couple of places and left in a state of shock that lasted for hours. For "civilians," this masterful bio- flick will not be such a monumental achievement, for they lack a frame of reference. The sting of a hornet is an abstract notion for those who've never been stung. But for the rest of us..., wham!

Casting: Excellent, especially the roles of Jeannette and her father, Rex. The child roles were very effective, especially those of Jeannette.

Acting: Brilliant by Brie and Woody, who channeled Jeannette and Rex The Rosemary (mother of Jeannette) role was believable but didn't convey the degree of maternal indifference in the book. Woody seemed overweight for the role, but his mannerisms and speech delivery made up for it. He had several strong moments, but I expect his rendition of Rex's delirium in his Herculean struggle to quit drinking will be shown on Oscar night.

Script: Well done. Jeannette's story unfolds in overlapping flashbacks, starting when Jeannette as an accomplished adult writer in New York. Very effective for the way it emulates the consciousness of someone wrestling with their traumatic history but challenging for those who crave a simplistic plot line.

Setting: There are three main settings--New York City, Arizona and Virginia mountains (or similar "hillbilly" country). The Arizona desert scenes lacked the full brilliance of the sweeping sunsets and nighttime Milky Way galaxy that I recall. The scenes in New York and Virginia were confined as well, but effective.

Themes: Triumph over the effects of alcoholism, parental neglect, pedophilia and the resiliency of children in the face of parental dysfunction.

Key Dialog: "We have to stick together," teenage Jeannette to her siblings.

Suggestion: Read the book first. Jeannette's an excellent writer.

This complicated, emotionally draining film owes much of its high effectiveness to the fact that it is a true story, proving that fiction cannot compete with the harrowing reality of well rendered truth.
47 out of 62 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Phenomenal Storytelling and Performances
themovieparadise21 August 2017
One of The Glass Castle's strongest aspects is how it takes an experience unique to a small amount of people, and makes it so relatable to the masses. 99% of the people watching this movie have not had an upbringing like Jeanette's, but the film crafts the story in a way that you can form parallels to your own life. This isn't just telling the story of someone's childhood; it becomes a commentary on the ups and downs of family life itself. And that's where The Glass Castle becomes something more profound. Some may have seen this relatability as a simplification of child abuse. But I would disagree. The movie never painted what happened in the film as a good thing. It never tried to spin that the parents for justified for how they chose to raise their kids. Instead, they showed that, when you boil it all down, the dysfunction between Jeanette and her parents stem from the same place as other people's parental issues. Instead of isolating the audience by showing us something completely and utterly foreign to us, they chose to make it relatable so that we could draw comparisons to our own lives...
61 out of 83 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Growing up - difficult
kosmasp3 March 2018
Raising children is not easy. Being a child growing up in an unstable relationship and general instability character wise (parents wise that is), is not easy either. This movie is not easy to watch is what I'm trying to say. But it is rewarding if you are into dramas and really good performances. The lines are blurred between good and bad, and what parenting is about and how or what you should learn from the usually most important people in your life.

Woody Harrelson gives a powerhouse performance, which elevates but is also enhanched through the other great performances. As the saying goes, what doesn't kill you ... So if you like slow moving drama with a distraught time line, this is the one you may like
21 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Dysfunctional family
pamma0914 August 2017
I read the book many years ago when it first came out and found it fascinating. The film may not be up to some people's wants - there is not enough time to tell the whole story. Four children born into a very dysfunctional family. An eccentric mother who probably should not have had children, married to an alcoholic dreamer - and a talker of his dreams. BUT neither take good care of the children and the children end up raising themselves. I have always felt that all families are dysfunctional - with varying levels of function. Woody's character has many issues from his childhood and only one is made known. He has many demons to fight and mostly he doesn't fight - he dreams. I am not a fan of Woody Herrelson however this is a good role for him. I am most impressed with the acting of the younger cast - to be able to show the real emotions of those siblings - well done. I think it tells the story well given the obvious time constraints of a film. The emotions ere and believable.
37 out of 49 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
We all have stories
ferguson-610 August 2017
Greetings again from the darkness. We all have our stories. The stories that make up our life. Some of us dwell on the "bad" things, while others remember only the good times. A few even romanticize the past, which could also be termed embellishment. Where exactly on this scale that Jeannette Walls' story falls is debatable, but the facts are that her life story is the foundation for a best-selling book and now a high-profile movie.

Ms. Walls' memoir describes her unconventional childhood with bohemian parents who cared more for freedom and independence than for feeding their kids. Writer/Director Destin Daniel Cretton (a 'must-follow' filmmaker after his powerful 2013 indie gem SHORT TERM 12) chose this as his next project, co-wrote the screenplay with Andrew Lanham, and wisely opted to work again with Brie Larson, who stars as the oldest Jeannette (from late teens through adult).

The film bounces around in time from Jeannette's childhood in the 1960's and 1970's to her time as a New York gossip columnist in 1989. The timeline isn't all that bounces, as we watch this family of six, seemingly always on the run, ricochet across America with all their belongings strapped to the top of the battered station wagon – usually on the run from creditors or following the latest dream from Rex (Woody Harrelson).

Rex is the type of guy who rants against most everything that makes up what we know as society. He can't (or won't) hold a job and fills his trusting kids' heads with hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow - going as far as drawing up plans and specs for the off-the-grid fantasy home referenced in the title. Rex then spends what little money the dirt poor family has on drinking benders which cause him to become a nasty, abusive threat.

Rex's wife Rose (Naomi Watts) is a free-spirited artist who somehow possesses even fewer parental instincts than her husband. Although she could be labeled an enabler of his abusive ways, she might actually be the more interesting of the two, even if the story (and Jeannette) focuses much more on Rex. The best scene in the movie is when mother and grown daughter share a restaurant booth, and the two worlds collide.

Of course the real story here is how Jeanette managed to rise above this less-than-desirable childhood and achieve her own form of freedom as a writer. The stark contrast between the squalor of her West Virginia shack and the million dollar apartment she later shares with her fiancé (Max Greenfield) makes this the ultimate depiction of the American Dream – pulling yourself up by your bootstraps (even when you don't have boots).

The acting is stellar throughout. Mr. Harrelson could garner Oscar attention as he manages to capture both the dreamer and failure that was Rex. Ms. Watts maximizes her underwritten role and turns Rose into someone we believe we know and (at least partially) understand. Ms. Larson embodies both the desperation of a teenager whose environment forced her to be wise beyond her years, and the iciness of a grown-up trying so hard to leave the past behind. In just a few scenes, Robin Bartlett manages to create a memorable and horrific grandmother – one whose actions explain a great deal. The most remarkable performance of all, however, belongs to Ella Anderson (the only good thing about THE BOSS). She captures our hearts as the adolescent Jeannette – the closest thing to a parent this family had.

There are some similarities between this film and last year's expertly crafted CAPTAIN FANTASTIC. In fact, two of the young actors (Shree Crooks, Charlie Shotwell) from that film also appear in THE GLASS CASTLE. The biggest difference being that Viggo Mortensen's character could be considered to have an over-parenting approach, while Woody Harrelson's Rex never over-did anything, except drink and dream. The movie probably has a bit too much Hollywood gloss and sheen to adequately portray the hardships of a large family living in poverty, though the top notch acting keeps us glued to the screen. By the end, we can't help but wonder if some of Ms. Walls' romanticism of her father and past might be due as much to her immense writing talent as to her childhood challenges.
50 out of 71 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Filled with one heartbreaking scene after another!
Hellmant17 August 2017
'THE GLASS CASTLE': Four Stars (Out of Five)

The new drama adapted from the 2005 memoir (of the same name) by Jeannette Walls, based on her experiences growing up in a poor dysfunctional family. The film was directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (who also helmed the 2013 critical darling 'SHORT TERM 12'), and it was written by Cretton and Andrew Lanham. The movie stars Brie Larson (who also starred in 'SHORT TERM 12'), Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts, Ella Anderson, Chandler Head and Max Greenfield. The film has received mixed reviews from critics, and it's performed modestly at the Box Office so far. I found it to be a little too long, and slow-paced, but it's mostly a very moving and enjoyable film.

The story is told from Jeannette's (Larson) point of view, as an adult, as she recollects on growing up as a child in extreme poverty. Her mother, Rose Mary (Watts), was an eccentric artist, and her father, Rex (Harrelson), was a free-spirited alcoholic. Jeannette, and her three siblings, were constantly forced to move, and often times they didn't have enough to eat, or ideally safe conditions to live in. The whole time Rex filled the children's heads with unrealistic hopes and dreams of a better life.

The movie is filled with one heartbreaking scene after another, I cried multiple times throughout the entire film. Larson plays the central character in it (as an adult), but Harrelson actually has far more screen time; and he's the real star of the movie (in my opinion) as well. As flawed a character as he is, Harrelson's character is also (in some ways) the most relatable, at least for me, due to his dreams and generally positive outlook on life. The film has many great moments in it too, but it seems to lose it's way at times, and it's sometimes a pain to sit through (due to it's pacing). 'SHORT TERM 12' is definitely a much better film, but this movie had a lot of potential to it. I think it's definitely still worth seeing.

Watch an episode of our movie review show 'MOVIE TALK' at:
26 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Woody at his Best!
metta110 January 2018
It was not easy for Woody to play this character, but he did an outstanding job!!

I was transfixed by this movie despite the sadness due to the very good acting of all members of the family. But it revolved around Woody.

I totally disagree with the bad review I just read. I never read the book so maybe that is why?
25 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Real, Raw and Riveting Account of a Loving But Troubled Family
marshallfg12 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
(Warning, may contain some spoilers)

I like that the director stayed true to the book by opening with the stove accident because that captured my attention immediately. Told from the adult Jeanette's perspective looking back, the movie version took on a serious tone right away and lost some of what made the book such an addictive (no pun intended) read. When told from a child's perspective, some of the family's experiences seemed truly magical, like spending the night in the desert or dancing in rain puddles during a storm. I also felt a stronger emotional connection to the dad through young Jeanette's idealized view of him and was less able to hate him later when his alcoholism totally spiraled out of control. From the child's perspective, Jeanette's growing realization that her larger than life dad was not so heroic was very potent. The story told by the adult Jeanette was still emotionally powerful, but the present dysfunction gave away the secret of why her parents were so odd and why they kept moving. The fiancé was barely mentioned in the book, but I loved the dynamics between him and the dad in the film. That add-in was very helpful in understanding how Walls came to terms with who she is and where she came from. I wish the other siblings had been more developed. All in all, I liked this adaptation of Walls's touching and disturbing book and hope Woody Harrelson gets an Oscar for his portrayal of Rex Walls.
18 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An indie beauty: powerful acting with a dysfunctional family.
jdesando24 August 2017
"Your values are all confused." Rex (Woody Harrelson)

Fortunate we all are to have families that dysfunction in even small ways because they provide us with stories for a lifetime. Such is writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton's The Glass Castle, a story based on Jeannette Wells's (Brie Larson) family, overloaded by a dad, Rex,whose outsized personality, big brain, and capacity for booze dominates the four children through their adult years.

The commendable element infused by writers Cretton and Andrew Lanham is the realism enfolding odd characters, where bad things happen when dad drinks and kids have to forage for food while dad shrinks their little lives as he drinks. Having no food for days is not unusual for the Wells family, due to dad's drinking up their meager holdings. However, the kids learn how to survive, a commendable achievement in a dependent world, even in later 20th century.

Jeannette's and Rex's relationship is the ballast of this sometimes surreal film; artist mother Rose Mary (Naomi Watts) is too busy painting to be bothered with their hunger or dad's ranting. Jeannette's early accident with the stove is a visceral reminder that the bohemian life can hold some dangerous consequences.

Yet Rose's artistry is probably a source for Jeannette's writing excellence as dad's verbal fluidity is. Although he's the smartest man his daughter ever knew, he just doesn't stop talking. The film very smartly lets us see the dark and light sides of the characters, not unbefitting a West Virginia where talking is like breathing—colorful and crass but you have to do it to survive.

The central motif of the title is the glass castle Rex hoped to build, an energy efficient beauty with glass all around to let Nature in without letting the rough invade. Well, it never gets built, and the world does intrude. Happy for us because it's a great story, just like our own.

While the reconciliation at the end seems too neatly tied up, most of the film has a grit to remind us that although family is not always fair, it may be the best life has to offer.
19 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Irresponsible Hollywood-Style Portrayal of True Events
alexarag7 January 2018
Bottom line:

As a movie *out of context from what really happened*, it is a well put together movie.

Here's the problem though:

The Glass Castle book is about a woman's traumatic life under the thumb of two psychologically damaged parents pass on psychological trauma and abuse to their children.

We see parents lie to their children for their own selfish needs, put false hope in their heads only to let them down, and, of course, they also expose their children to other kinds of terrible behaviour.

Unfortunately, the movie is a classic Hollywood portrayal of such a subject. We go through a few key points that occurred in the book, only to have that counterpointed with points in the screenplay as to why the parents are actually sympathetic people, and why (at the end of the day) they truly cared about the children deep down.

The movie actually leaves audiences with the feeling and idea that the main character feels "lucky" to have the *terrible and abusive experience* she did in childhood.

Absolutely no *true* responsibility is assigned to the parents that abused their children in this movie-just the idea that they are sympathetic screw ups that tried their best.

Child abuse is a serious subject, and of course, we can leave it to Hollywood to take a memoir about that dark subject and turn it into a classic bitter-sweet tale of a dysfunctional (but of course all-American!) family simply getting through their lives as best as they can while deep down caring about their children.
20 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Grotesque Story of Broken, Co-Dependent Adults with No Boundaries
Melvin_Tigerfists22 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
First, this film is apparently based on a true story, so it makes no sense to criticize the message. Life is messy. Please do not take my review as an appeal to make all films tidy and redemptive.

That said, not all true stories are worth committing to film and being held up as examples of family commitment and unconditional love. I found the "heart" of this film to be twisted and dark, and the message to be potentially harmful to people with truly abusive and heartbreaking family circumstances.

Woody Harrelson plays an abusive drunk who terrorizes and mercilessly deprives his own children. He also meticulously manipulates his co-dependent wife to enable his dysfunctions and remain cooperative with every sick development, including the sexual molestation of their son by his own grandmother. This is supposed to be "balanced" by the fact that he is a dreamer who is occasionally nice. Heck, he even coughed up some tuition money. Once. After stealing money from the same kid earlier. What a great dad.

As the kids mature and literally escape into independence as adults, the mentally deranged parents follow them all the way to New York City and continue to sabotage their happiness. When a family member attempts to draw boundaries in order to establish some sanity and peace, they all conspire to leverage one another back into the nightmare with guilt trips.

The central character, one of the daughters, actually manages to put together a relatively sane life (one in which she copes with her background by lying to others about it), but is repeatedly told by the father that she is not really happy and craves his brand of freedom and "adventure". "Down is up, left is right," says the sociopath.

The nice, happy part of the movie is when the dad finally dies, making it easier for the remaining family to gloss over and romanticize the brutal treatment they received as the children and wife of a lazy, booze-addled abuser.

I gave it an 8 out of 10 because it is well acted, convincing, and impeccably made. I just find it to be utterly aimless and warped as a work of storytelling, and it eludes me what people find charming or heartwarming about it.
9 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Bad adaptation of a fantastic book
loveminuszero00013 August 2017
I read the book just a few weeks before the movie came out so it was still fresh in my mind when I went to see this film. Woody Harrelson was superb as always but the movie really glossed over his character. There was no depth to the movie at all and at times it felt ridiculous and insulting to watch the Hollywood portrayal of these characters, particularly with Naomi Watts. Naomi's make-up and wardrobe were horribly contrived and her acting wasn't much better. She was a bad choice for Rose Mary. The movie changed the order and places of events, skipped about half the book, and threw some important parts in at awkward times just to get them in the movie. They also just plain made stuff up, particularly with the ending.

The movie lost the emotional punch of the book because they omitted everything that was difficult and meaningful. I didn't care about any of the characters and I was so frustrated and bored that I actually got up and left the theater for a few minutes. It was a sugar-coated, feel good mess. My advice, if this plot seems interesting to you, is to read the book and skip the movie. You'll thank me later.
30 out of 51 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Falls short of the book
heartcore924 January 2019
I don't expect movies to follow the book exactly, because I get that a movie is a totally different medium of storytelling. But it IS a problem when the movie fails to capture the essence of the book at all. If you were to just watch the movie and not read the book, you would be robbed of the extremes that exist in this story. Jeannette's life of poverty and imagination is more awful than the movie portrays and more magical than it portrays. Strangely, the movie walked this middle ground, showing glimpse from her life but not really getting to the heart of why we care. Skip the movie, and read the book!
8 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Should have been so much more GRIPPING!
johnthemoviekidd11 August 2017
First off, I have never read the book the film is based on and had no real understanding of what I was about to watch. But I decided to go to the theater today and give it shot. I had recently watched "short term 12" also directed be Destin Daniel Cretton. Since he was on my radar I noticed "The glass castle" was just being released so I figured why not see it but unfortunately it didn't really feel like a valuable use of my time.

Like previous reviewers have said this film is not nearly as effective as a movie like "captain fantastic" in depicting a unconventional family. All in all it just feels very dry and pointless, in a strange way. I can't recommend this one. Really wanted to like it.
27 out of 50 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Waited two hours for something to happen
jdellios10 August 2018
Warning: Spoilers
We waited two hours for something to actually happen in this movie... The father started out as a crap dad and was consistently a crap dad until the end. Nothing really happened. The acting was great but the story just didn't go anywhere.
12 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Awkward and disappointing big-screen adaptation of the gripping memoir
paul-allaer12 August 2017
"The Glass Castle" (2017 release; 127 min.) brings the story, "based on a true story" as we are reminded when the movie opens, of Jeannette Walls' upbringing in a dysfunctional family. As the movie opens, we Jeannette, all grown up, is having dinner with her fiancé in New York. On the way home after dinner, she sees her mom and dad, obviously homeless, rummaging the streets of Manhattan. We then go back in time, it's probably the 1950s. Jeannette's mom is busy doing her paintings, so Jeannette is forced to fix lunch for herself, and accidentally sets herself on fire. It's not long before Jeannette's dad decides that her hospital stay has lasted long enough, and he sneaks her out... At this point we're 10 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you';; just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this movie marks the reunion between writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton and actress Brie Larson--they did the under-appreciated "Short Term 12" together a few years ago. Here they tackle a difficult task, namely how to bring the 2005 iconic memoir of Jeannette Walls to the big screen. I read the memoir, and there is a reason it is considered an absolute classic. It is crucial then to find the right performers for the key roles, and I believe that casting Woody Harrelson in the key role of Rex (Jeannette's crazy and drunk dad) was a mistake, for no other reason than Harrelson (whom I love otherwise) is simply too old for the role (he is mid-50s in real life). But there are other problems too: some of the scenes look so... staged! You can practically hear the director yell "And... action!", check out the awkward arm-wrestling match between Rex and David (Jeannette's fiancé). Last, but certainly not least, is that some of the material is so inherently unlikable that it feels wrong seeing it on the big screen (as opposed to reading it, where you can process it in the confines of your own privacy). Each time Rex says "Things are going to be different this time around", you just want to slap him straight. On the plus side, there are some terrific performances, none more so than the two actresses who play Jeannette at a younger age. Given the long shadow of the 2005 memoir, maybe no film could ever have done justice to the memoir, who knows. One thing is for sure: this particular movie is an awkward and ultimately disappointing adaptation.

"The Glass Castle" opened wide this weekend, and I really was looking forward to this. The Saturday early evening screening where I saw this at here in Cincinnati was attended okay. Yet I can't see this playing in theaters all that long, to be honest. The movie is simply not that good, and in a few weeks will be buried by other new movies. If you've read the book, approach this with caution, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray.
23 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Good acting, lacking focus
reverendlinneken11 August 2017
The acting and writing for this movie are great, however, I think it missed the mark in terms of what of this incredible story the screen writers chose to focus on. I read the book as an amazing story of resilience, and while the film certainly didn't shy from the fact that Walls thrived despite the neglect and emotional abuse she endured as a child, it played more like a story about her relationship with her father than as a personal story about her tenacity to survive despite it all. I found the book inspiring. The movie didn't inspire as much as it pulled the heart strings. In the end her parents looked a bit too sympathetic, and I left the theater feeling that us viewers were robbed of some of the most raw and telling details her of her childhood, the details that best illustrated just how trying and unique her life was growing up. In all, though I thought the acting was great, I think the meat of Jeanette's personal story of transformation was sacrificed to make space for telling the specific story of her relationship with her father.
11 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Extremely unpleasant and with almost no entertainment value whatsoever.
dave-mcclain13 August 2017
In the classic 1990 holiday comedy "Home Alone", Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom) tells Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), "How you feel about your family is a complicated thing." I'd say that's true for most of us. No matter how uneventful our upbringing or how close we currently are with our family members, there always seems to be unresolved issues. Of course, significant issues in our childhoods lead to complicated feelings as adults. That has certainly been the case for writer Jeanette Walls. The former newspaper writer turned author endured a nomadic, poverty-stricken childhood, carved out a life for herself which was diametrically opposed to how she was raised and then had to come to terms with her dysfunctional parents and her complicated memories from her youth. She chronicled that journey in her 2005 best-seller, which spawned 2017's "The Glass Castle" (PG-13, 2:07).

To say Jeanette Walls had a difficult childhood is like saying that the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign was kind of divisive. Jeanette (played in flashbacks by Ella Anderson and Chandler Head) is the second of four children raised by Rex and Rose Mary Walls (Oscar nominees Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts). Rex acts like an overgrown hippie. His attitude is summed up well when he tells Jeanette, "Rich city folks live in fancy apartments with their air so polluted they can't even see the stars. We'd be out of our minds to trade places with any one of them." He loves his children on an emotional level, but does a terrible job of showing it on a practical one. He constantly indulges his drinking and smoking habits, but often can't afford food for his family. He can't hold a job, he avoids all financial responsibilities and he often moves his family from place to place – and in most of the places they live, they're squatting. Jeanette's mother isn't much better at parenting. She loves to paint and manages to do that in spite of her children often not knowing where their next meal is coming from. She gets frustrated with Rex, but she enables Rex's alcoholism and resists leaving him, even though he's emotionally and sometimes physically abusive towards his family. Meanwhile, their three daughters and one son are simply… stuck.

As an adult (in scenes that take place in the early 1990s – the "present" in this film), Jeanette (Oscar winner Brie Larson) has become one of those "rich city folks… in fancy apartments." She's a successful writer living in New York City with her fiancé, an investment banker named David (Max Greenfield). By this point, her three siblings have also settled in the Big Apple, as have their parents who are squatting in an abandoned building. Jeanette says she's happy with her fiancé and her job, and she seems to be, but her face also seems to betray a deep inner conflict regarding what she really wants in life – and how she feels about her parents. Early in the film, she drives past the two of them picking through trash, pretending not to see them. That incident launches her into a series of flashbacks in which we see her childhood play out (including a recurring subplot of her father drawing up plans for the titular dwelling, an energy-efficient house full of windows, which his children help him plan, but increasingly doubt will ever be built). In Jeanette's present, she struggles to come to terms with her upbringing, while her relationship with her siblings and her parents grow, change and move towards some sort of resolution.

"The Glass Castle" is difficult to watch – and not in a good way. The film is similar to 2016's "Captain Fantastic" (and includes a couple of the same child actors), but that one was somewhat entertaining. Movie Fans will marvel at the irresponsibility, neglect and even abuse on the part of these parents, and wonder how the kids survived, let alone felt any affection for them. In its synopsis, Rotten Tomatoes calls this movie "a remarkable story of unconditional love", but people who see it will be forced to consider whether these parents deserved such devotion and whether their children are foolish for trying to give it. This story is really more about resilience, while the experience of watching it is more like an endurance test. A few times, I found myself briefly closing my eyes, not because I was tired, or even because of any specific images on the screen, but because I simply didn't want to watch these characters anymore. Only my integrity as a reviewer kept me in my seat, but even that was tested. Hearing fingernails dragged across an old chalkboard is more pleasant than enduring this film. Director and co-writer Destin Daniel Cretton should never be allowed to bring another book to the screen. The book includes more interesting stories and more emotional levels than this adaptation. Cretton chooses to oversimplify Jeanette's life and focuses mainly on the depressing point of how bad her parents were. Only impressive performances by the main actors keep this movie from being completely unwatchable – and it's still a close call. "D"
37 out of 80 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
I Guess I'm Hard-Hearted
Stoshie15 July 2019
This movie didn't move me much at all. I'm not sure what I was supposed to feel after the movie was over. Was I supposed to feel sympathetic toward the father? No, I didn't. Since he was the main focus of the film, it lost me right there.

Sure, it's great that the kids survived their childhood without major psychological damage (that we know of), and that one of them became a fairly well-known author. Still not enough to make me care much. I could have done without the oversentimental last part of the movie, too. I might have liked it better if it were, say an hour and forty minutes long instead of over two hours. The last half hour was painful for me to sit through.

I can understand why Jeanette Walls, as a writer, would have written a memoir about her childhood. It might have been a bit cathartic for her to do so, too. But I would bet there are a thousand other similar stories out there, not all with such happy endings. Did it need to be made into a movie? In my opinion, no.

A similar true-life movie that I liked better was "The Poker House", even though it has a lower rating on IMDB. It wasn't really all that good, either, but it had better overall performances in it, including one by a then-unknown Jennifer Lawrence. The performances in "The Glass House" seemed wooden to me; none of the acting stood out, none of the characters really grabbed me or made me care about them. With one huge exception: I thought Woody Harrelson was excellent. He's an underrated actor, in my opinion. He was able to inject nuance and believability into his character. His was an award-worthy performance in an otherwise mediocre movie.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A too-happy ending
marylbarone31 August 2018
Warning: Spoilers
We all know by now that this is a movie about a now-successful writer's horrendous childhood. Raised in a family with two unstable parents, one of whom was a roaring alcoholic and other an enabler par excellence, she was abused, neglected, manipulated, and, confusingly, sometimes told she was loved. The timeline of that experience is not clear in the movie, how she gets from being "home-schooled" as in given books to read without direction, to being a scholarship student at Barnard is vague. Obviously, it happened.

While telling the story of that abusive childhood is a major part of the movie, the really unsettling part is the de rigeur forgiveness and redemption of the parents. By the end of the movie, there's nothing left but happy memories because when their smart, self-educated father wasn't extremely drunk, he could be very creative and engaging. Forgiving is wonderful and necessary. Forgetting leaves mistakes to be repeated.

It's well acted by Harrellson - it's a rich part, tailor- made for him - not ot so much by Watts who simply seems to be miscast. Performances by the various Jeannettes as they are growing up are compelling.

But I couldn't possibly recommend this movie to anyone. Surely the book was more nuanced in its approach to such a complicated life story.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Uneasy Story
bobzmcishl6 August 2018
This may not be a movie to watch if you were raised in a dysfunctional family. It may bring back unpleasant memories as it did for me. I had to first read some of the critic reviews to see if their reactions were like mine. They were to a large degree. The problem lies with the premise that such bad parents as the Walls, can somehow at movies end have a happy face put on it. Make no mistake, this is an unpleasant movie featuring first rate actors trying to make a flawed screen adaptation work. Ella Anderson is the star of the movie, but Woody Harrelson plays such a bad dad, it is hard to buy into the sympathetic ending. Brie Larson is good but her playing the adult Jeanette Walls is the less interesting part of the story.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Not true to the book
markandtsimpson6 August 2018
This movie really bothered me. Rex Walls was not a misunderstood man whose demons excused the neglect and abuse he made his family suffer. He was a drunk con-artist who made his family suffer by not providing them with food or shelter. He was also an expert in conning his children into believing that he actually loved and cared about them. The Mom was not portrayed properly, she was equally complicit with the neglect and horrible childhood those children endured. The movie should have been about the children and how they somehow managed to thrive, not their horrible alcoholic father and lazy mother.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed