‘The Glass Castle’ Review: Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson Give Fantastic Performances

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There’s a weird sense of beauty in getting through and pushing past our pain. At the same time, traumatizing events can forever scar and mark us in ways that aren’t truly realized until well into adulthood. More importantly, parents’ unresolved issues bleed over and touch us, leaving us trying to wrap our heads around that pain which was never ours, but becomes a part of us nonetheless. The Glass Castle, based on the real life story of journalist Jeannette Walls, is haunting and bravely explores the turbulent relationship between father and daughter. It doesn’t always strike the right chords, with the film’s finale being the biggest example. However, it’s packed with stunning performances that create an emotional atmosphere that resonates.

Image from the movie "The Glass Castle"One of The Glass Castle’s strengths is that it doesn’t simply stick to a black and white version of the story being told. There are layers upon layers and writers Destin Daniel Cretton (who also directed the movie) and Andrew Lanham are able to find the gray corners that permeate every parent/child relationship. Parents, whether we want to admit it or not, play a very, very distinguished role in the lives of their children. For better or for worse. The Glass Castle is almost a perfect example of both the good and bad times of growing up. From Rex’s occasional supportive gesture to the suffocating nature of many of his actions, it’s all laid out in equal measure and depicts a complicated relationship that has moments of genuine warmth despite its deep-rooted problems. Cretton takes care not to rush the story, but it isn’t slow either and everything feels weighted, important, and builds the characters in several ways.

While the movie does do a great job of balancing the characters and ensuring that they’re (mostly) fully realized, the swiftness in which the dynamic changes between Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson’s characters makes it occasionally hard to figure out whether to judge Rex for being a terrible father, or whether we should embrace the hardships and cruelty he put his kids through. It’s a bit of a conundrum and when the dust settles and Jeannette finally comes to a conclusion, it’s hard to fully be on board given some of the events from her past. But, it also speaks to the guilt factor and the rose-colored glasses we can see parents through even when at their worst.

Glass CastleThe Glass Castle is a straightforward story. However, most of the discussion will be surrounding Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson’s performances, and rightfully so. Their portrayals of Jeannette and Rex, respectively, are beautiful, poignant, and transcend the film into something much more emotionally affecting. Without their performances, the film could have honestly floundered because it’s their emotional connection that holds everything together. The Glass Castle has wonderful moments and portrays a complicated relationship between a daughter and her father fairly well, at least until the film’s final moments, where it’s unclear how we should feel about it all. Despite this hiccup, the movie has a phenomenal cast and a connection between the characters that gives it just the push it needs.

70%
70%
Very Good

The Glass Castle has wonderful moments and portrays a complicated relationship between a daughter and her father fairly well, at least until the film's final moments, where it's unclear how we should feel about it all. Despite this hiccup, the movie has phenomenal performances and a connection between the characters that gives it just the push it needs.

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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