The Glass Castle Review
I have been a huge fan of Brie Larson ever since I saw her. She is one of those performers that really chooses worthwhile projects instead of going after the easy money. I have really enjoyed watching her mix up her career with independent work, as well as throwing in a blockbuster or two every now and again. She has serious chops, and it seems like she’s career orientated, more so than other actresses in her age group. I absolutely would never have guessed that she’d be Captain Marvel for Marvel. (Personally, my choice was Rosamund Pike) When Larson was announced as Captain Marvel, it was like lightning in a bottle. It felt like I had one of those lightbulb moments, and I instantly found her casting of that role perfect. She deserves to be in this mega franchise.
One film I loved immensely with her was “Short Term 12.” A movie I have reviewed for my website before. A movie where Larson played a counselor for at-risk children. It was a brilliant showcase for Larson. “Short Term 12” was directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and I thought he made a bold statement as a director. So when I heard that Larson and Cretton were reuniting for another movie, I was instantly on board. That film ended up being “The Glass Castle,” a film based upon an actual memoir.
So color me surprised that I am not falling in love with it right now. Sure, “The Glass Castle” is well acted. I don’t think it’s in Brie Larson or Woody Harrelson or Naomi Watts to give bad performances. Of any kind. This is a very well-acted film. The set and production design is exquisite and has a grounded, earthy feel that I think suits the film well. The cinematography is lush and luminous at times. The thing is, all the things I mentioned in this film are the side things. These are extra things that all go into making a movie work. I don’t want to say that these things don’t matter, because obviously they do. I don’t think any movie should ever look bad or have poor production value. But the main points that make a movie whole are all off in this film, not feeling right, never adding up to a satisfying whole.
The story itself is really, really weird. It’s so weird that I find it hard to believe that it actually happened, but hey, there are tons of strange real life stories that Hollywood has used as a basis for a film, so I suppose I shouldn’t be THAT surprised. Woody Harrelson plays Rex Walls, a man that takes his family going from home to home, state to state, neighborhood to neighborhood. Rex is an optimist, a nature-lover, a guy who lives on the fly despite having a wife and children to raise. Rex takes his family, and together they squat in homes and are constantly living in immense poverty. Rex can’t keep a job, and his wife Rose Mary (Watts) is trying to make in the art industry, but to no avail. This takes an unseen toll on their children, particularly Jeanette, who grows up to be played by Brie Larson, and whose character wants nothing to do her father.
The film shifts back and forth between the present and the future. We see an adult Jeanette try and reconnect with her family after a long time. We see her try to muster up the courage to tell her parents that she is marrying a rich man that won’t provide the same life Rex did. We see how young Jeanette’s relationship changes as she is a child to an adult. I get the themes of the movie. I understand that this is a coming-of-age story of sorts. I get that this is an examination of childhood to adulthood. I get that this is a movie about somebody who doesn’t want to grow up being the person her parents think she should, but never losing her family’s spirit deep in her heart. There are plenty of water works moments in this film. I bet they will work for some people, but they didn’t quite work for me.
I am sure there is a decent, provoking movie hidden in this story somewhere, but the script by Cretton, Andrew Lanham and Marti Noxon is lifeless. There is no sense of tension to the action of the film, nothing that registers with the audience. There are some big story beats in few moments of the film, something that we are supposed to get a real reaction from, but fall on the floor with a large thud that seems to echo in an empty room. There is no emotional depth in this movie. There nothing for the audience to cling to, that they will find memorable later on. It’s a very boring film, which made me sad. The characters never really gave me anything to identify with or provide me with anything that struck me as genuine.
I wish I could say I liked this film more, but the structure of the film feels disjointed. The film doesn’t transition very well between the memories of the characters. I see that the cast is working their asses off here to make everything count, but their work is in the service of an emotionless script, something that doesn’t allow its audience to feel anything. That’s too bad because I am huge fan of everyone in this movie. But they are given funny moments where I didn’t laugh, tear-jerker moments where I didn’t cry, and emotional beats where I didn’t feel anything at all.
It’s a movie like “The Glass Castle” that really gets under my skin. Even if I hate a movie for pretty much everything in its contents, at least that movie made me feel something. While I like the actors and the extra scenery, I don’t get anything off of anything else in this film. Its something I feel I will have forgotten by the end of the week. I want to feel something for every movie I sit down to watch, and if a movie appears and goes through the motions and has nothing to offer, that’s what really feels like a waste.
FINAL GRADE: D