East Penn Press

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Movie Review: ‘Glass Castle’

Friday, August 25, 2017 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

“The Glass Castle” is a difficult, if rewarding, film.

Among its attributes are Oscar nominee-worthy performances by Woody Harrelson as Rex Walls; Naomi Campbell as his wife, Rose Mary Walls, and Brie Larson as one of their four children, daughter, Jeannette Walls.

The film is based on the 2005 best-selling memoir, “The Glass Castle,” written by Jeannette Walls about her poverty-stricken upbringing by an alcoholic father and an eccentric mother in West Virginia. And that’s only part of the story.

Jeannette Walls is a former contributor to the Brooklyn alternative newspaper, The Phoenix; wrote “The Intelligencer” column for New York magazine, and was a gossip columnist for MSNBC.com. “The Glass Castle” spent 261 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list.

While the performances are commendable, “The Glass Castle” suffers from flashback-itus. That’s when a film jumps back and forth with too much frequency between the present-day and past in the lives of its characters and the storyline. This is always a challenge where multiple characters are concerned, especially so with “The Glass Castle,” where there are several children.

While the matching of the four children at the different ages: from child, to pre-teen, to teen, to adult, is good, it’s difficult to determine which child is which and to follow each of the children’s story line because the screenplay does so much shuffling of the chronological order of the family’s story. Scenes flip back and forth so often, the movie-goer might experience emotional whiplash.

Also, too much time is devoted to incidental aspects of the other three children when “The Glass Castle” the movie should really be Jeannette Walls’ story, as it is her memoir, after all.

Director Destin Daniel Cretton (director, “Short Term 12,” 2013; “I Am Not A Hipster,” 2012) co-wrote the screenplay with Andrew Lanham (screenwriter, “The Shack,” 2017). The director seems overwhelmed by the material. He’s organized it in a disorganized way. The director fails at job No. 1: he doesn’t advance the story properly, nor illuminate the problems clearly. The movie-goer is left as dazed and confused as the family. While this may have been the point creatively, it only serves to confuse the movie-goer.

That said, “The Glass Castle” presents a portrait of a brutal father the likes of which has hasn’t been seen on the theatrical screen since perhaps “The Great Santini” (1979), which starred Robert Duvall as a tyranical father, and is based on the semi-autobiographical book by Pat Conroy.

Larson (Oscar recipient, “Room,” 2015) does her best to keep the story together, but there are too many distracting storyline threads that prevent her from being front and center. Again, she’s not given prominence in the storyline. A voice-over narration by her character would’ve helped.

Harrelson gives one of his best performances as the ruminative, phlegmatic, alcoholic, cigarette-smoking father who fantasizes about building “A Glass Castle” on the family’s West Virginia property.

Watts is almost unrecognizable as the mother in a seamless, believable performance.

“The Glass Castle” is as challenging to the movie-goer as are the characters and topics of the movie itself.

It’s a harrowing look at a dysfunctional family that somehow manages to inspire the movie-goer. “The Glass Castle” is appropriately dedicated “to all families who, despite their scars, still find a way to love.”

Would that were true more often in real life.

“The Glass Castle,”MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13) for mature thematic content involving family dysfunction, and for some language and smoking; Genre: Biography, Drama; Run time: 2 hrs., 7 mins.; Distributed by Lionsgate.

Credit Readers Anonymous:“The Glass Castle” end credits include photos, footage and interviews of and with Rex and Rose Mary Walls, which are as fascinating, if not more so, than some scenes in the film.

Box Office,Aug. 18: “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” opened at No. 1 with $21.6 million, knocking off “Annabelle: Creation,” dropping one place to No. 2, with $15.5 million, $64 million, two weeks, as “Logan Lucky,” director Steven Soderbergh’s return to the big screen after four years, wasn’t so lucky, opening at No. 3, way back with only $8 million.

4. “Dunkirk” sank two slots, with $6.7 million, $165.5 million, five weeks.

5. “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” tracked down one spot, $5.1 million, $17.6 million, two weeks.

6. “The Emoji Movie” expressed a one-place drop, $4.3 million, $71.7 million, four weeks.

7. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” hung on at No. 7, with $4.2 million, $314 million, seven weeks.

8. “Girls Trip” tripped down two spots, with $3.8 million, $104 million, five weeks.

9. “The Dark Tower” toppled five slots, with $3.7 million, $41.6 million, three weeks.

10. “Wind River,” $3 million, $4.1 million, three weeks.

12. “The Glass Castle” slipped three steps, $2.5 million, $9.7 million, two weeks.

Unreel,Aug. 25:

“Tulip Fever,”R: Director: Justin Chadwick directs Cara Delevingne, Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, and Emmaus High School graduate Dane DeHaan in the Drama Romance. An artist falls for a young married woman while he’s commissioned to paint her portrait during the Tulip mania in 17th century Amsterdam.

“All Saints,”PG: Steve Gomer directs Cara Buono, John Corbett, Barry Corbin, and David Keith in the Drama. The movie is based on the true story of salesman-turned-pastor Michael Spurlock (John Corbett), the tiny church he led and refugees from Southeast Asia.

“Birth of the Dragon,”PG-13: George Nolfi directs Billy Magnussen, Terry Chen, Philip Ng, and Teresa Navarro in the Action Biography Drama. The story is set against the backdrop of 1960s San Francisco. It’s a modern take on Bruce Lee movies.

“Leap!,”PG: Eric Summer directs the voice talents of Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Maddie Ziegler in the Animation Adventure Comedy. An orphan girl dreams of becoming a ballerina and flees rural Brittany for Paris, where she passes for someone else and becomes a student at the Grand Opera house.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes