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Movie Review: The Glass Castle
Jeanette (Brie Larson) and David (Max Greenfield) are engaged but there is one problem, Jeanette has not told her parents. Rex (Woody Harrelson) and Rose Mary (Naomi Watts) are not ordinary parents. Rose Mary is a struggling artist while Rex is a veteran, anti-establishment, alcoholic. The two raised their four children while never owning a home and constantly running from the federal government.
This movie follows Jeanette as she recalls her childhood and all the times her father has given her hope and let her down. She recalls her childhood as she gets ready to tell her father that she is going to marry a man he does not approve of. Jeanette embarks on this inner journey as she recalls the best and the worst from her childhood. The film also focuses on Rex's inner journey as he tries to be a good father, but struggles to overcome his inner demons, all throughout Jeanette's life.
The Pros & Cons
Brie Larson & Naomi Watts (+6pts)
The Fiancé (-5pts)
Character Development (+6pts)
The Timeline (-6pts)
Woody Harrelson (+10pts)
Arm Wrestling (-3pts)
Pro: Brie Larson & Naomi Watts (+6pts)
Most of the reasons why this movie works, are the performances. Brie Larson plays the Jeanette Walls (during her adult timeline) and plays the role incredibly well. She brings real emotion and weight to the screen that made the character's development fascinating to watch.
Naomi Watts plays Jeanette's mother and, while the film does not give this character much focus, Naomi Watts makes it an interesting and memorable character.
These are two incredibly talented actresses, playing complex characters, and nailing their respective roles.
Con: The Fiancé (-5pts)
The movie centers around the engagement and breaking the news to Jeanette's disapproving father. It follows Jeanette as she tries to determine how her father her will respond as well as handling the aftermath of him the big news. However right from the beginning, I felt like the engaged couple were not right for each other. He clearly did not get her and she clearly was trying desperatley to find someone who was as different from her father as possible. I am sure the book was written more subtly but, in this movie, the fiancé storyline should have been a phase in Jeanette's character development as opposed to the centerpiece of the story.
I enjoyed watching Jeanette on her journey in discovering what she wants but I wish I did not know what she wanted nearly two hours before she did.
Pro: Character Development (+6pts)
This movie did a great job with its character development. While many characters got decent development in the background, the film focuses on the development of Jeanette (Brie Larson) and her father Rex (Woody Harrelson).
With Jeanette, we get a complicated woman who struggles with her past while planning her future. She is engaged to be married but is haunted by her troubled childhood and alcoholic father. The film follows Jeanette on a journey through her memories while she tries to overcome the demons from her childhood while aspiring to be an influential author.
Rex is a veteran with an anti-establishment ideology, a messed up childhood of his own, and an alcohol addiction. Both of father and daughter have big dreams but struggle overcome the inner demons that were passed down to them by their parents. My only complaint is that it felt like there was so much more character development which the film simply did not have enough time to show.
Con: The Timeline (-6pts)
The timeline of this movie was all over the place. It is constantly jumping from Jeanette's childhood, to adulthood, to slightly older childhood, to adulthood, to teenager, to slightly older adulthood. I understand the story and how the jumps in time further that story (on paper) but, in the movie format, all it does is disrupt the flow of the film. There were so many jumps in time, that it was (at times) difficult to determine exactly what point in time was happening at the moment.
Pro: Woody Harrelson (+10pts)
Woody Harrelson nails yet another performance. I am blown away that this guy has yet to win an Academy Award. Rex is an incredibly complex character, but Woody Harrelson has the talent to depict him on screen. This guy is tormented by whatever horrors he faced as a childhood. He loves his children and has big dreams to give his kids a great life by building a glass castle. He does his best to be a good father but his inner demons always have a way of smothering his dreams.
That is a very complex character with so many conflicting emotions but I thought Woody Harrelson did a fantastic job of balancing Rex's dreams with his nightmares.
Con: Arm Wrestling (-3pts)
This was a bizarre scene. I will set it up as simply as I can without spoiling the movie. Rex disapproves of Jeanette's boyfriend (he is unaware of the engagement), David (Max Greenfield). Rex and David get into a debate and Rex decides that, in order to prove who is right, the two should arm wrestle. I found this weird because in no way could arm wrestling prove who is correct on a completely separate debate, but both Rex and David were drunk so I went with it. During this scene there are tons of insults and everyone in the room is intense. During that intensity Jeanette gets way too intense and heated in her support for David.
This seemed very out of place for the character at the time. I know she had her issues with her father but her intensity and frustration was not properly setup. Maybe I am alone in thinking this but I just thought that entire arm wrestling scene was way too bizarre and did not really fit with the movie. I have not read the book, so I hope and assume that this scene (if in the book) was properly setup and works. For the movie, I did not think there was enough to support Jeanette's rage at that time. I understood her disappoint and depression but I did not understand the rage in that intensity.
Grade: B- (83pts)
The Glass Castle was a pretty decent movie. It has great acting from Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, and Woody Harrelson. I thought the movie was interesting because, while on the surface it looks like this movie is about Jeanette (Brie Larson) the film is actually about Rex (Woody Harrelson) but it is from Jeanette's point of view. I thought this was an interesting way to tell the story and I really enjoyed watching the character development of Jeanette and Rex as well as watching their relationship evolve through Jeanette's life. My one complaint is that there was not enough character development. This does not mean that I thought that the character development was poor. I thought the character development was great but (when dealing with characters based on real people) there is not nearly enough time to fill in all of the blanks within a two hour film. I think Rex was a fascinating character. I felt for him and also felt Jeanette's frustration with him.
My biggest complaint about the movie is the timeline. The film keeps jumping back and forth to different points in Jeanette's life. I just think it jumped too frequently and did not allow the audience ample time to sink their teeth into each time period. My next complaint with the movie was David. I did not think Jeanette and David's relationship worked on screen and I think this hurts the film since it focuses on Jeanette and her inner journey as she reveals the engagement to her parents. I did not feel invested in this revelation because I did not feel like Jeanette and David were a good couple.
I liked this movie. It has a few problems but it is a great character story that focuses on two very interesting people with Jeanette and Rex. I will warn you, this is not a fast paced film. This is a slow-burn, dramatic character story. So if you enjoy films like that then I definitely recommend seeing this film, but maybe wait for it to hit home video. I do not think it will blow anyone's mind but I think people will walk away appreciating the film and have a temporarily refreshed appreaciation for life. What more can you ask for in a movie?