The Glass Castle, based on Jeannette Walls' 2005 memoir, is not your average coming-of-age and rags-to-riches story. It's an extraordinary and heartwarming piece that aims to inspire through dysfunction and heartache. It follows the sporadic, broken, but close-knit Walls family.
Based on the true life of celebrity reporter Jeannette Walls, this film spans four parts of Jeannette's lifetime: toddler, child, high schooler, and adult. Throughout her childhood, her and her family never had a permanent home. They were always moving around the country: sleeping in tents, boxes, and sometimes rundown homes. Jeannette and her siblings often mistook this homelessness as an adventure. They were never worried despite their constant hunger and lack of a stable home, because their father promised them the world. He told his wife and children that he would one day build them all a glass castle, made with eco-friendly solar cells to protect and house them.
The film often flips from past to present, showing the juxtaposition of Jeannette's current life as a successful entertainment reporter with her old homeless self. The issue Jeannette faces in her adult life is dealing with the guilt of her parents living on the streets of New York City, where she is. Jeannette's struggle with coming to terms with her parents choosing this life is the overall internal conflict of the film.
Brie Larson plays two stages of Jeannette: high school and adult. Her performance is moving and sophisticated, just like Jeannette. Brie is able to capture the essence of two conflicting feelings: loving your family, but knowing it is best to leave them behind.
Jeannette and her siblings are not the cliche siblings you see in every movie. They don't portray typical movie siblings that always fight and mess with each other. These children are very attached to each other, for survival purposes. They know they need to stick together to get by, and maintain an unequivocal bond amongst the four siblings.
The relationship between Jeannette and her father Rex (Woody Harrelson) drives this film forward. Jeannette has always revered her father and admired his intelligence and fortitude. Although as she gets older, she starts to see the evil demons living inside him, like alcoholism. She tries her hardest to help the father she loves so dearly, but begins to realize some things she can't change on her own. Larson and Harrelson play off of each other exquisitely. Harrelson plays a phenomenal broken dreamer. The audience often jumps back and forth between caring for Rex and condemning him and his actions. His care for his children is unparalleled, but also contradicted with his drinking habits. Harrelson's performance is scarily impressive, being able to switch between a caring and loving father and an alcoholic monster making all the wrong choices. The bond between Rex and Jeannette is inspiring and melancholy, because audiences feel for Jeannette and her need to get out.
The film's script is fairly similar to that of the book. The changes made were mostly locational/time periods, which helped the movie flow a lot better in a linear timeline. The script lacks in colloquialism, but makes up in beautiful word poetry, specifically from Jeannette's mother, Rose Mary (Naomi Watts). "Why should I cook a meal that will be gone in an hour when I can do a painting that will last forever?" This line fits perfectly in the film because it calls to Rose Mary's ignorance when it comes to parenting, but also portrays her love of the arts and painting, thus showing how she often put art before her kids. Naomi Watts excellently plays Rose Mary Walls, getting a good balance between anger and love. Rose Mary was often angry with her kids and felt jealous of their lives while she was cooped up in her home all the time. A memorable scene is between Watts and Larson, while they are sitting eating lunch in NYC. Watts undeniably lacks table manners, while Larson remains poised. Watts is able to show her anger and jealousy when she quickly points out that Jeannette's lifestyle is totally out of whack, turning it into a hilariously ironic scene.
Despite everybody's story being different, everyone who watches this film will be able to connect with something. Jeannette Walls created an emotionally vulnerable story, pouring out her life story, which inspires viewers all around to be able to accept their past. This story aims to inspire and it does just that with it's incredible themes of adventure, familial love, and a hard childhood that one comes to accept.