An outstanding cast delivers outstanding performances in The Glass Castle, the true-to-life story about a troubled family, unaware of their sad plight.
The movie is based on the memoir of Jeannette Walls, one of the children in the family who grew up to be a successful magazine columnist in New York. That role, played by Ella Anderson as a child and Brie Larson as the adult, provides the perspective of the story.
At the film’s opening, we quickly learn that Jeannette, the beautiful, successful writer, engaged to a rich industrialist, is a no-nonsense forceful personality. She is in a taxi when she encounters a couple of incidents that shake her up a bit.
The taxi is accosted by a man, dressed like a bum and apparently tipsy, at least, who is bellowing at the driver about a pedestrian right of way. Jeannette recognizes him as her father and his appearance and behavior are no surprise to her.
On the sidewalk, she sees a middle-aged woman rummaging through the trash from a restaurant, pulling out discarded leftovers. It is her mother.
And we are taken by flashback to her youth. That’s the pattern throughout the The Glass Castle. Jeannette was the second of four children of Rex and Rose Mary Walls.
The father, Rex (Woody Harrelson), is devoted to the family, as is Rose Mary (Naomi Watts). She devotes her energy to oil painting of mediocre quality.
Rex devotes his life to drinking, although he adores the children, especially Jeannette. Those two are very close and she, as a child, is forgiving of his alcoholism.
Rex is an educated technical person. He cannot control his addiction and it leads to a life of constant moving, constant hunger spells and inadequate schooling.
He spends a lot of sober time designing a home for the family that will be powered by solar energy. Its walls will be of glass. He promises to finish the design and to build the home, but never has any money to buy anything, much less a building lot.
Rex is a loud, egotistical blowhard who violates his parental responsibilities when he’s drunk, and that is often. As a child Jeannette adored her father and loved his stories and lessons about the stars and seasons and nature.
As a young adult, she began to see the hopelessness of her tolerance of his drinking. She uses her writing talent to make a career and is successful.
Naomi Watts as Rose Mary is excellent, as always. The children at two stages of their young life are played perfectly. That’s especially true of Ella Anderson as the preteen Jeannette whose devotion to Rex is beginning to wane.
The overpowering presence in The Glass Castle is Woody Harrelson. He is very convincing as the dual personality father. Sober, he is loving and caring of his wife and children. He is deeply sincere about his building plan.
When he’s drunk, he’s loud, blustery and convinced of his invincibility. It is a peak performance for Woody, and makes The Glass Castle the gripping film it is.
The Glass Castle is at the Harkins Sedona 6 Theater.