Plot: Jeannette (Brie Larson) has just gotten engaged and seems to have a good life, but she is torn because of family ties. While her own life has taken a turn for the better, her parents continue to choose the same offbeat, fringe lifestyle they’ve always lived, which has caused some hardships for their children. After she sees her father living on the street and ignores him, Jeannette is flooded with memories of her childhood, some better than others. Her father Rex (Woody Harrelson) was a dreamer, a man who thought and acted outside the box, but struggled with severe alcoholism. He loved his children, but wasn’t always the best caretaker, while his wife Rose Mary (Naomi Watts) was a free spirited artist who again, loved her family, but faltered at times when it came to the more practical side of life. This led to a childhood of frequent moves, unusual living conditions, and an environment in which Jeannette and her siblings grew close to watch over each other, since her parents couldn’t always be counted. As she explores these memories and begins to reconnect with her parents, will Jeannette find peace with herself and her troubled, but colorful family life?
Entertainment Value: This is a dark, but often warm narrative that can be tough to process, as it is not a neat & clean kind of story and the characters aren’t simple or polished folks. This makes sense, as The Glass Castle is based on real life events and in real life, things don’t often adhere to a precise, satisfying arc. Brie Larson has what is likely considered the lead, but Woody Harrelson’s Rex is the real core of the movie, the force that drives the narrative. Rex is a loving, but irresponsible father who refuses to live by society’s rules and regulations, so he is more about dreams than action, not to mention an alcoholic. The movie shows how much he loves his kids, but never shies away from his reckless behaviors, some of which cause direct damage to his kids and others which easily could have. Rex and Rose Mary are certain to spark conflicted reactions for all these reasons, as they’re bad parents in almost every practical sense, but the love and bond is obvious. I know some criticized Harrelson’s performance as overly broad, but if the role is of a larger than life man, you can’t exactly take a subtle, reserved approach. I thought Harrelson’s performance was strong, given the offbeat source and while the movie is tough to watch at times, it tells a powerful story about family with some universal elements. So if you appreciate dark, offbeat dramas, I think The Glass Castle is well worth a look.
No nakedness. There’s an interesting scene where an escalation between Rex and Rose Mary leads to a big fight, her almost falling out of a window, and that passion turning into a romantic interlude, but no sexual content is shown. There’s also a scene that implies one of the children being molested, an event that is discussed several times over the course of the movie. A few scenes involve some violence, including a child on fire, Rex getting stitches from his young daughter, and severe burn scars, but these are an organic part of the narrative. So some blood is visible, but it isn’t played for shock or shown in graphic detail. The dialogue is sharp and memorable, though also awkward at times and uncomfortable. Rex is a colorful man with a huge personality, so he always has some insights on a situation, regardless of what that situation is. His interactions with Jeannette’s boyfriend are so uncomfortable to watch, but are also hilarious for the same reasons. Some people will find the dialogue here dark and sad, while others will find a certain humor in it, it just depends on your perspective. But I think there’s a lot well written, memorable lines in this one. In terms of craziness, the movie is populated with offbeat and colorful people, awkward moments, and outlandish turns, so it earns a solid score in this area.
Overall Insanity: 5/10