After working together on the emotionally affecting Short Term 12 back in 2013, Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson now reunites with director Destin Daniel Cretton for The Glass Castle, in what is primed to be award season bait.
The film is based on the best-selling memoirs of Jeannette Walls, a journalist best known for being a New York Magazine gossip columnist from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. Jeannette (Larson) is an impeccably dressed, confident yuppie who, together with her financial analyst fiance (New Girl’s Max Greenfield), hobnobs with New York’s elite.
But behind the flawless façade, Jeannette has a hidden shame – her parents are living in poverty and squatting in the city. The film, with its numerous flashbacks, chronicles her family’s nomadic life before settling in a dilapidated cabin in West Virginia.
This meagre, rootless existence is no thanks to her parents who act on their anti-establishment sentiments. Jeannette’s alcoholic father Rex (Woody Harrelson) finds it hard to hold down a job and is constantly on the run from the authorities. Meanwhile, her artist mother Rose Mary (Naomi Watts) would rather finish her paintings than feed her starving children.
In spite of her parents’ shortcomings, or rather because of them, Jeannette and her four siblings work doubly hard to break out of the poverty cycle and become successful members of mainstream society.
If you are hoping for the same poignant conviction shown in Short Term 12, you might feel a little shortchanged with The Glass Castle. While there are sufficient empathetic moments, particularly the rough yet tender father-daughter relationship between Rex and Jeannette, the film doesn’t really delve into the hard truths that fill the pages of the original memoir.
Because Cretton largely eschews the ugly reality of Jeannette’s childhood for a more romanticised portrait of Rex and Rose Mary, the drama comes across as awfully sentimental and it lacks any form of stylising to make it memorable. The film’s saving grace? The capable cast who performed admirably, thus elevating an otherwise unremarkable drama.
Larson is convincing as the adult Jeannette, a charming social climber whose troubled past affords her a layer of grit and realness that helps her stand out amid the superficial crowd of New York’s upper crust. L
arson has proven her mettle as a worthy dramatic actress and we can’t wait to see her breathe life into Captain Marvel next! And Harrelson is charismatic, as always, and a joy to watch as the alcoholic dreamer of a father.
All in all, The Glass Castle is largely unmemorable but has its moments thanks to some good acting.
The Glass Castle is out in cinemas now. Have you seen it? Tell us what you think.