Movie Review: “The Glass Castle” Puts The D In Dysfunction While Making It Seem Illusively Charming

“While there are many gut-wrenching moments in the film, it is still an entertaining and illusively charming story of triumph on its own level, in the midst of chaos.”


A young girl comes of age in a dysfunctional family of nonconformist nomads with a mother who’s an eccentric artist and an alcoholic father who would stir the children’s imagination with hope as a distraction to their poverty.

This film is one of those that is hard to watch, yet you are almost afraid to blink because you don’t want to miss a second of this tantalizing display of dysfunction that actually appeals to the senses. Director Destin Daniel Cretton goes deep into the story of Jeannette Walls’ 2005 New York Times best seller which has sold more than 4.5 million copies. “The Glass Castle” is a coming-of-age story which revolves around a two-parent household whereby the children seem to be the only sane ones in the bunch. The star-studded cast includes Woody Harrelson (Rex Walls) who is an alcoholic father, Naomi Watts (Rose Mary Wells), an enabling artist as wife and mother, and Brie Larson (Jeanette Walls) and Ella Anderson (Young Jeanette) who is the child closest to her father. The film goes back and forth between the family with young children and Jeanette’s adulthood whereby she has become a professional journalist living in New York.

As the film begins, the family who has become accustomed to escaping debt collectors by moving from town to town, soon settles in Welch, West Virginia, hoping that it will be their final destination. Rex’s constant state of denial of the impact of his alcoholism, which includes his inability to hold down a job is only enhanced by Rose’s naivety and artistic alliance that causes her to alienate the needs of her family with her devil-may-care attitude. Going against every social norm, Rex educates his three children through the forces of nature and the promise of white castles. Jeanette, who is her daddy’s best friend and confidante, always seems to have his back while at the same time becoming the only force to reckon with as he attempts to justify his irresponsible behavior. After going to bed hungry a few times too many, the children, who can’t seem to entice their mother to leave their father, then band together to support one another with the goal of each of them leaving the home gradually in order to salvage their dignity and sanity as well as their relationships with one another. At the end of the journey, Rex is forced to reconcile with the bed he has made by dealing with the effects of alcoholism that will lead to his demise and Jeanette is forced to accept the reality of a life she never chose, but could never deny the lure of the glass castle.

Woody Harrelson (Rex) plays one hell of a role as an irrefutable drunk who stole from his kids and traumatized his family with his nomadic behavior. No less honorable is Naomi Watts (Rose Mary) as the mother who accepted her fate and rode with the punches while upholding her dubious role, and Brie Larson and Ella Anderson in the dual roles of a young and older Jeanette who proved to be the formidable anchor of the sinking ship. The supporting cast is outstanding as well as they delve deeper into the impact of alcoholism on an entire family and the personal and social implications of enabling. While there are many gut-wrenching moments in the film, it is still an entertaining and illusively charming story of triumph on its own level, in the midst of chaos. I highly suggest the viewing this incredible journey with an iron stomach and open heart.

In theaters Friday, August 11th


Tracee Bond

Tracee is a movie critic and interviewer who was born in Long Beach and raised in San Diego, California. As a Human Resource Professional and former Radio Personality, Tracee has parlayed her interviewing skills, interest in media, and crossover appeal into a love for the Arts and a passion for understanding the human condition through oral and written expression. She has been writing for as long as she can remember and considers it a privilege to be complimented for the only skill she has been truly able to master without formal training!
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