The Glass Castle

Jeannette Walls lived a turbulent childhood: her parents bustled her and her 3 siblings from town to town, evading bill collectors, never quite having enough money for both food and her father’s insatiable thirst. Poverty and addictions pock her youth, but for all their struggles, her mother would never leave her father, and the kids soon realized they’d need to fend for themselves, each disappearing to the big city as soon as it was feasible (a real challenge when someone is constantly drinking up all the money).

Walls went on to write a memoir detailing the hardships she lived through, and that tgc_d02_00156_00157_comp_r2.jpgbook became this movie, though something was lost getting from A to B. The book pulls no punches. Her parents are complex characters, and their children have conflicted feelings toward them. The movie’s a little more pat, the trajectory a little more Hollywood. Someone decided to apply some spit shine to this story, a story that’s naturally very dark and brooding now has themes of hope and redemption that maybe don’t belong.

I can’t say what exactly is wrong with the film except it’s just too easy. The grit is gone. Sure Jeannette’s father Rex is charming but he’s also kind of a monster. He’s a negligent parent who abuses his wife and kids and helps keep family molestation on the down low. And of course he wants deathbed forgiveness. Meanwhile his wife is a “free spirit” who chooses homelessness over independence from the man threatening her family’s well being. Neither parent is capable of putting their children’s needs first, or of meeting those needs even if they ever did. Which they don’t.

But The Glass Castle is worth a watch for the performances alone. As Jeannette, Brie Larson lives up to her previous Oscar win, but it’s Woody Harrelson as Rex who you’ll remember. He’s tortured and endearing and inspiring and hateful. Is this the film he’ll win his Oscar for? I wouldn’t be disappointed if he did. But shame on Hollywood for trying to put gloss and a positive spin on childhood poverty. These kids were failed not just by their parents but by the system. And now their brave story is being watered down to make it more palatable for film audiences. Shame.

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24 thoughts on “The Glass Castle

  1. Sean

    You did well to put your finger on what is missing from this movie. It’s too bad they didn’t stick more closely to the book because the performances, especially Harrelson and Larson, are excellent, but the movie fell flat for me as well because it really did gloss over how awful these parents treated their kids.

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  2. renxkyoko

    Oh, my comment isn’t here. Thank goodness. I thought I posted a comment here that was supposedly for another blog. LOL

    Anyways, I tend to like all the movies Woody Harrelson’s in.

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  3. Brittani

    I’m 10000% with you on the gloss. That ruined the entire film for me, and I knew they were going to do that. The memoir is far better.

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  4. Liz A.

    It’s amazing the depravity of some parents. Great that a good story came of it, but it would have been so much better if the kids hadn’t had to live this life. Sigh.

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  5. mydangblog

    I read the book years ago, and I’m looking forward to seeing the movie, even if it’s not as gritty. I actually just read an interview with Jeanette Walls and she said she was good with the way Cretton interpreted it, and like you, she was really impressed with Woody Harrelson’s performance!

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    1. Jay Post author

      That must have been SO hard for her to watch.
      Hopefully telling her story exoricized some ghosts.
      Hollywood always takes artistic license but it really feels like this isn’t really her story anymore. And really, I don’t blame her for preferring it that way.

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