As a film, The Glass castle is a painting an physical representation of an overall theme to a much larger context. As a memoir, The Glass Castle is a film, which accounts fragmented moments within a life full of interesting people, places, and experiences that only reading the manuscript or speaking with the author will unveil.
Brie Larson portrays, Jeanette Walls, the writer of a memoir by the same name in a film which recounts only but a few of the more endearing, beautiful, hectic times living with a not-so-perfect father with the best intentions for his family.
I did not read the memoir but I have read some memoirs in the past and later watched movies depicting the source material. One thing I know is that they are never a perfect portrayal of the written context; there is only so much you can show in a film without making it umpteenth hours long. The challenge is to extract a major focal point of the memoir; something which all the events of that person life is influenced by and portray that on screen.
The film, The Glass castle, focuses on Jeanette Walls’ relationship with her father and some of the many great adventure and misadventures she and her siblings experienced as a family. They were squatters; they were grifters; they did what it had to take to survive without the monetary means to live a stable life.
Woody Harrelson amazes in this depiction of Rex Walls, a man with admirable ambitions who is held prisoner to his own demons. His actions, as well intended they are, were selfish and sometimes harmful to his family.
Brie Larson as adult Jeanette is a successful tabloid writer trying her best to move forward with her life, and leave her paternal history behind. This was best depicted in the opening scene with her soon to be husband; they’re at dinner and she makes up a story about her childhood and parents to appease her husband’s client. Afterwards, she in a car and sees her father and mother digging through trash.
Driver, she says. Speed up.
Actually, I don’t think she said speed up but she did attempt to hide her face, but not before Rex notices her.
Jeanette and Rex
This establishes the tone for the movie, which begins with Jeanette suffering an injury that leads to a stay in a hospital. This is where we meet the family as they enact a plan to break her out.
(There was a similar scene, like this, in Captain Fantastic, a movie similar in tone and I believe dramatically more entertaining.)
We witness Rex’s adoration towards his daughter of say age seven and also his propensity to flip out whenever a figure of modern society questions his manhood and ability to provide for his family.
Later (in the same act), the two, youngest Jeanette and Rex, share a beautiful moment in what I think is the Arizona Desert. This scene cements there bond as father and daughter which Rex will later challenge with his unreasonable beliefs and failure to launch.
Brie As Jeanette Walls
Brie, as fine of an actress she is, did not carry the torch in this movie. She just wasn’t visible enough to enjoy her range of acting talent, and I believe this may have played into the third act unsuccessfully when Larson, as a young adult is unbelievable as Jeanette. The choice to cast her then rather than some, of that age who looks the parts, through off the continuity of what the film establishes in the first and second act with child actors Chandler Head (youngest Jeanette) and Ella Anderson (young Jeanette). This film needed a teen Jeanette but instead casted Brie whose appearance did not support the transition of the characters aforementioned growth path. Odd as it is to say, her growth spurt into womanhood was too striking of a difference when Ella had, for an entire act, carried the films major moments.
Beauty And Struggle
The beauty of this film rest solely in the relationship between Rex and Jeanette; there wasn’t much time to focus on Maurine or her contemptible regards to the budding socialite Jeanette. Jeanette practically raised Maurine and then abandoned the young by girl when her time came to leave the nest– this was briefly introduced into the story in the third act but never explored.
How about the chaotic love shared between Rex and Rose Mary –another hinted at but unexplored caveat to this tale.
The Glass Castle as a film succeeds at painting a beautiful picture of the relationship Jeanette and Rex shared. Where this film struggles is as a memoir and its use of Brie Larson the actress. The tale of Jeanette Walls’ life [on screen] was more of a coming of age story of a girl with whom her father a man who promised the world, but offered little in effort to burden the weight of family, alcoholism, and self worth under the guise of struggle and discomforting realization taught her the true meaning to being herself.
Tidbit: What I gathered from the end of this movie is to never be ashamed of from where of whom you come from because it is in those moments upon which your character is built. Know yourself and never let anyone or any superficial influence determine you who you are or should be. For though struggle and perseverance, you will find the beauty of your own importance.