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The Glass Castle


A True Story Impeccably Performed

Genre: Drama
MPAA Rating: unrated
Mature viewers only
Runtime: 127 minutes
Our Rating:
Directed by: Destin Daniel Cretton
Cast: Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts
Review by Diana Saenger

In 2005 I attended a National Federation of Press Women Conference in New York City. Our Keynote speaker was Jeannette Walls who spoke about her new book, The Glass Castle, a memoir of her and her sibling’s childhood growing up with dysfunctional parents. It was an incredible story, I couldn’t stop reading the book; every page was a page-turner.

After many years I was surprised when the movie came out but anxious to see it. Also interested in seeing how Writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton with co-screenwriter Andrew Lanham, created this story for the big screen. As part of the San Diego Film Critic’s Society we nominated Cretton Best Director and Best Screenplay in 2013 for his film Short Term 12. He won many national and international awards for that film.

Greenfield, Larson

The Glass Castle begins with a look at Jeannette (Brie Larson), now a grown woman with a successful job and engaged to David (Max Greenfield). Although Jeannette is now grown her family is still part of her life, and when they have an occasion they expect her to show up. David knows about Jeanette’s family’s life and does not like to be around her father, Rex (Woody Harrelson) who always makes fun of David and his normal lifestyle, and always insists he drinks alcoholic with him.

The story reverts back to when Jeannette, her two sisters and her brother are young and Rex, their alcoholic father, drives them like a maniac all across America through deserts and unpaved roads. When they spot an old abandoned house; that becomes their new home! Instead of getting a job or making the house more inviting, Rex shouts out his own make-believe stories of how lucky they are not to live like everyone else.

Harrelson, Watts, (some of the child actors may not be in this photo) Shree Crooks, Elda Anderson, Charlie Shtwell, Eden Grace Redfield

“The people who live in those tall fancy apartments; their air is so polluted they can’t even see the stars,” Rex tells his family. “We’d be out of our minds to live like that. We were born to change the world!”

It’s about this point when we wonder what kind of mother do these children have. Rose Mary (Naomi Watts) has always wanted to be an artist, and Rex encourages her most of the time to keep painting. Actually it seems more like a way for him to go on with their peripatetic life.

What keeps young Jeannette so willing to give up so much of a normal life? She really believes that their dad is going to build them a glass castle to live in. She believes everything her dad tells her, which makes her even willing to sew up a wound on her dad’s arm. When Rex is an alcoholic rage and mistreating Rose and the kids, it’s hard to believe this is a true story.

The story moves on to Jeannette’s grown life still dealing with her parents as street pickers. Unable to completely forgive or ignore them she only hopes differences between Rex and David will not change her life again.
No one could have played this role any better than Woody Harrelson. There isn’t a moment when we don’t think Rex isn’t crazy, selfish, dysfunctional, negligent, and impaired; whether it’s just the way he is or the alcohol. I hope film voters remember this performance at year-end voting.


Brie Larson also should be remembered. She works well with Cretton as she appeared in his film Short Term 12, and was nominated or won more than 30 awards from Film Voters all over the world.

It’s inspiring that Walls had the courage to write her memoir, as any author knows going down the bad times of your life can be risky. Luckily her book was on the New York Times bestseller list for 261 weeks. And now it’s an interesting life story and well done.

Recommended Audience:
Those who like true stories and excellent acting.