Three or four years ago, someone recommended to my wife that she read The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeanette Walls about her unconventional growing up with her two sister and a brother. So she was anxious to see the movie in which “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.”
The good news is that, in all the story jumping back and forth in time, I always knew when we were in the narrative, even with three sets of children. Movie magic at its best. For instance, Jeanette was played by Chandler Head as the youngest iteration, the one who suffers a defining accident in the movie. My wife says that in the book, the child was even younger, three or four.
Then the growing up Jeanette, who ends up in the deep end of the pool, was played by Ella Anderson, who, heaven help me, I recognize from the Daughter watching the annoying show Henry Danger. Both the younger iterations were quite good.
Jeanette as an adult was played by Brie Larson, who was so good in the movie Room that she won an Oscar. Here she plays one note for a long time, a fairly blank facial expression. I suppose she’s supposed to be showing how closed off she’s become by her upbringing. But it isn’t until an arm wrestling match between her fiance David (Max Greenfield) and her father (Woody Harrelson) that she shows much emotion at all.
Harrelson as Rex, who is forever promising to design and build the titular structure, is very good as an maddeningly intelligent dreamer, whose views on the economic system are not entirely wrong. (You see the REAL Rex at the end of the film.) Naomi Watts as the mom, Rose Mary, has less to do, but is fine.
I guess the problem is the disjointed storytelling made me feel that 127 minutes. Perhaps if with a different linear flow, and some judicious editing, it worked better for me and the critics.
But The Wife and The Daughter evidently enjoyed The Glass Castle more than I.