The film begins in 1989. As a New York Magazine gossip columnist Jeanette (Larson) cabs home from a dinner meeting at an expensive restaurant with her financial advisor fiancée (Max Greenfield), she catches her middle-aged parent’s dumpster diving. She doesn’t stop; not even top give them the leftovers she holds on her lap. Director Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12) navigates through the present and the past by moving back and forth through time, from Walls glamorous present, to her drab, often hellish, past.
Surprisingly, The Glass Castle is more compelling during the flashbacks, when Jeanette (a significantly younger, but mature Ella Anderson) is better fleshed out as the family’s voice of reason in a whirlwind of chaos. Despite her proven ability, Brie Larson’s portrayal of the older Jeanette is rather passive; almost an observer in her own life. That aside, Cretton and his co-writer Andrew Landham don’t shy away from the poverty, and violence Jeanette and her siblings experienced. To be honest, by the 45 minutes mark in the film, I was exhausted from all the chaos.
Much of this ugliness takes place in Welch, West Virginia the improvised hometown Rex returns to once the family is desperate. It’s here that he plans to build the glass castle he’s been designing for years: a beautiful, big, solar powered structure. Of course, this is never going to happen. In reality, they can’t even afford electricity for their ramshackle cabin.
As Rex Walls, Woody Harrelson once again, shows what a good actor he is. A loving father one minute, and downright terrifying the next, Harrelson really captures the unpredictability of living with an an alcoholic. Unfortunately, The Glass Castle also seems to want us to find his unorthodox approach to parenting exciting, and some of his antics amusing. Call me old fashioned, but I found it troubling, and very sad. The same is true of Naomi Watts performance as Rex’s wife Rose Mary. Watts is effective as flighty, playful woman, but when she gets so distracted by her painting that a young Jeanette severely burns herself on the stove, it’s not cute anymore.
Forgiveness and redemption are positive thing, but the way it comes about here is all just to tidy. If it did work out so perfectly, wonderful, but it’s a heck of a ride getting there. I read Jeanette Walls book years ago when it first came out, and this is one of those occasions where I prefer the book to the movie. Perhaps, actually seeing all that nastiness on screen was just too much.
Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Lionsgate has provided a 1080p transfer with a very sharp image. Colors are not particularly vivid, but that would appear to be the filmmaker’s intent. The muted palette gives rise to a bit of grain during outdoor scenes, but it’s nothing distracting. Contrast is solid, and the visuals are impressive.
This dialogue heavy film has been given a Dolby True HD mix that handles a few moments of intensity well. Dialogue is clean, and concise. While directional effects are limited, a couple of early scenes convey a sense of desperation.
English SDH, and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- The Glass Castle: Memoir to Movie (HD, 25:48) A look at the process of adapting the book for the screen. Includes interviews with the cast and crew.
- A Conversation with Jeanette Walls (HD, 15:24) Walls sits down with film critic Josh Rothkopf to discuss her part in the adaption process. Some of the information here is also found in the above featurette.
- Making of “Summer Storm” by Joel P. West (HD, 3:22) A brief look at the making of the title song inspired by Rex Walls’ journals.
- Scoring The Glass Castle (HD, 4:06) A look at the overall score.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 9:32) Nine in total.
- DVD Copy of the film.
- Digital Copy.
- UV Copy.
Movie title: The Glass Castle (2017)
Director(s): Destin Cretton
Actor(s): Brie Larson , Woody Harrelson Naomi Watts , Max Greenfield , Sarah Snook , Ella Anderson