Sunday, August 13, 2017

Movie Review: "The Glass Castle" (2017)

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Year: 2017
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 7 minutes

The story of Jeannette Walls' life being raised by an alcoholic father and a neglectful mother.

"The Glass Castle" is a true life drama directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, who also helped write the screenplay along with Andrew Lanham. It is based on the memoir of writer Jeannette Walls. It stars Brie Larson as Jeanette herself. Larson previously worked with Cretton on the under-seen gem "Short Term 12." Joining her is Ella Anderson and Chandler Head, who also play Jeannette at different stages in her life. Also in the film are Woody Harrelson, who plays Jeannette's alcoholic and mentally abusive father Rex, as well as Naomi Watts, who plays Jeannette's mother Rose Mary, who is so wrapped up in her dream of being a painter that she neglects her children's needs and enables her alcoholic husband.

This is one of those movies that screams Oscar bait. The top billed actors are all Oscar nominees and winners, it's a true life story about self-reliant success and overcoming adversity, and it's depressing...really, really depressing. So what went wrong? It certainly isn't the acting. All of the actors, especially the three leads, do fantastic jobs in this film. Even the child actors do a great job. Woody Harrelson plays a drunk conspiracy-obsessed asshole believably well, which should be taken as a compliment but sure doesn't sound like one. Naomi Watts portrays a self-absorbed mother perfectly, and Brie Larson is wonderful as the grown up version of Jeannette Walls who must navigate adulthood with a hell of a lot of baggage. The directing by Cretton is very good. The film is well shot and looks gorgeous. Some have called this film slow and repetitive, but we didn't feel it was poorly paced. We also feel the repetitive nature is left in on purpose to emphasize the cycle of shit and broken promises the kids were subjected to during their lives starting at a very young age.

Where this film fails is in its message. It would seem that Destin Daniel Cretton and probably Jeannette Walls herself want the audience to find some endearing quality in her father. They want the audience to see the few times he acted like a father should act and say, "see? He was a decent person all along!" WRONG. Unfortunately, these happier moments are overshadowed by the times Rex Walls chose buy himself alcohol and cigarettes rather than buying his children groceries, making them go hungry in the process. It shows all of the times their mom was too busy painting to make her kids lunch or to get a job. By the time this movie was over, we absolutely hated Rex Walls, and we viewed him as a total piece of shit. No amount of laying in the snow promising his kids the stars could ever change that. Maybe there is more to Rex Walls than what is portrayed in "The Glass Castle," but using your teenage daughter as a sexual distraction so you can shark some guy in a game of pool is pretty fucking low. We feel like this movie wants us to root for a reconciliation between Rex and Jeannette when we were really rooting for her to free herself from her selfish asshole parents and finally move on with her life. Whatever direction they hoped to steer the audience, they were unsuccessful in that aspect, at least with us.

We can't really recommend "The Glass Castle" despite its excellent acting, camera work, and directing because of its relentlessly depressing nature. Though it has a lot to say about growing up poor, it tries to make a manipulative asshole a source of redemption by movie's end. It misguidedly sells some aspects of the Walls' lifestyle as something to be admired when really it's the same story as "Captain Fantastic" if "Captain Fantastic" were a raging, selfish alcohol and a legitimately bad parent without the best intentions for his children.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~49%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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