Jeannette Walls wrote The Glass Castle – excellent memoir about her unique childhood with two off the grid parents-artsy and smart, offering a different perspective of “living” to their kids. However, the kids just wanted to eat and were tired of always moving. And yet, despite everything, those were her parents and she did love them. Now the movie brings her story to the big screen. The book was better. I think the author’s words just strike a deeper chord. But, the movie is well acted and does a decent job of portraying the contrasts in the Walls’ lives.
Brie Larson is the grown-up Jeannette, now a writer in New York, engaged to a financial fellow, living the dream. One day on a taxi ride home from a fancy dinner, she sees her parents poking through trash, and she chooses to ignore them. In flashbacks, we see Jeannette’s life as a girl with her siblings. Often hungry, not attending school, always rushing to pack up meager possessions to move on to another squatter home. Woody Harrelson is Rex Walls – a free thinker, always dreaming, always scribbling in a notebook, “designing” the dream home – a glass castle that’s energy efficient. We also see him drink away what little money the family has, while his kids eat butter mixed with sugar as desperation. He’s bigger than life, and yet harbors a darkness. Naomi Watts plays Rose Mary, the artistic mother who’s along for the ride. She encourages reading and arts. Jeannette soon realizes she has to look out for her siblings and that their goal is to help each other move on.
Present day Jeannette is conflicted and gets tired of her own lies about her parents. The awkward scenes that bring together her fiance’s family with her own are heartbreaking. So much comes to a head – the hurt, the resentment, the love. How she lived made her who she is – that’s the key to the story. The youngsters who play the kids are superb. You root for them, and it’s rather amazing that they did turn out okay. They stuck with each other – sibling power is strong. Brie, Woody, and Naomi are also vibrant on the screen. The Glass Castle is quite a story – and it’s real. That’s the flabbergasting part.