Movie Review: “The Glass Castle” Essay


Jeanette (Brie Larson) and David (Max Greenfield) are engaged but there is one problem, Jeanette has not told her parents. Rex (Woody Harrelson) and Rose Mary (Naomi Watts) are not ordinary parents. Rose Mary is a struggling artist while Rex is a veteran, anti-establishment, alcoholic. The two raised their four children while never owning a home and constantly running from the federal government.

With these two as parents, Jeanette’s childhood was far from normal. As she prepares herself to tell her parents about her engagement, Jeanette recalls her childhood, all the times that her father has given her hope, and all of the times that he has let her down. While Jeanette’s mother has her issues, Jeanette is most concerned with how her father will react to her engagement. Rex always tried to be a good father, but always struggled to overcome his inner demons. Jeanette knows that her father will not approve of the man she has chosen to marry, but she has no idea how badly he will react.

The Pros & Cons

The Pros
The Cons
Brie Larson & Naomi Watts (+6pts)
The Fiancé (-5pts)
Character Development (+6pts)
The Timeline (-6pts)
Woody Harrelson (+10pts)
Arm Wrestling (-3pts)

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then awarded for each Pro and taken away for each Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points ranging from 0-10 allowing me to convey to you how significant these Pros or Cons are.

Pro: Brie Larson & Naomi Watts (+6pts)

The performances in this movie were a huge reason for why this movie worked as well as it did. Brie Larson played the Jeanette Walls—during her adult timeline—and played the role incredibly well. She brought real emotion and weight to the screen that made the character’s development fascinating to watch. Naomi Watts played Jeanette’s mother, and—while the film did not give this character much focus—Naomi Watts made it an interesting and memorable character. These are two incredibly talented actresses, who played incredibly complex characters and nailed their respective roles.

Con: The Fiancé (-5pts)

The movie centered around the engagement and breaking the news to Jeanette’s disapproving father. It follows Jeanette as she tried to determine how her father her would respond, as well as handling the aftermath. However, right from the beginning, I did not feel like the engaged couple were right for each other. He clearly did not understand her, and she clearly was trying to find someone who was as different from her father as possible. I am sure the book was written more subtly but, the fiancé story-line should have been a phase in Jeanette’s character development as opposed to the centerpiece of the story, because there was not enough of a foundation for this relationship to support the entire story. It just made it obvious where the filmmakers were going with Jeanette’s story. While I enjoyed watching Jeanette on her journey to discover what she wanted, I wish I did not know what she wanted nearly two hours before she did.

Pro: Character Development (+6pts)

This movie did a great job with its character development. While many characters got decent development in the background, the film focused on the development of Jeanette (Brie Larson) and her father Rex (Woody Harrelson). With Jeanette, we got a complicated woman who struggled with her past while trying to plan her future. She was engaged to be married, but was haunted by her troubled childhood and her unstable father.

The film followed Jeanette on a journey through her memories, while she tried to overcome the demons from her childhood while aspiring to be an influential author. Meanwhile, Rex was a veteran with an anti-establishment ideology, a messed up childhood of his own, and an alcohol addiction. Both father and daughter had big dreams, but struggled overcome the inner demons that were passed down to them by their parents. This was a compelling story about the issues that parents can pass on to their children, and I thoroughly enjoyed this movie whenever it was focused on that issue.

Con: The Timeline (-6pts)

The timeline of this movie was all over the place. The story was constantly jumping from Jeanette’s childhood to her adulthood, to slightly older childhood, to adulthood, to her teenage years, and to her slightly older adulthood. I understand the story and how the jumps in time furthered that story—on paper—but, this did not work for the movie. All it did was disrupt the flow of the film. There were so many jumps in time, that it was difficult—at times—to determine exactly what point in time was on screen at the time. This meant that I had to spend time trying to figure that out rather than just enjoying the story. Occasional time jumps like this would have been fine, but this story did it so frequently that it made the story feel sloppy and incoherent.

Pro: Woody Harrelson (+10pts)

Woody Harrelson nailed yet another performance. Rex was an incredibly complex character, but Woody Harrelson had the talent necessary to bring him to the screen effectively. This guy only ever wanted to be a good father, but was tormented by traumatic experiences from his own childhood. It was clear that Rex loved his children and had a big dream to give his kids a great life by building a glass castle.

It initially seemed that he only told his kids about this dream to give them some amount of hope. However, it was clear that he wanted nothing more than to provide a life of luxury for his kids. He did his best to be a good father, but his inner demons always seemed to get in the way. He was a very complex character with many conflicting emotions, and I thought Woody Harrelson did a fantastic job of balancing Rex’s dreams with his nightmares.

Con: Arm Wrestling (-3pts)

This was a bizarre scene, and I will set it up as simply as I can without spoiling the movie. Rex disapproved of Jeanette’s boyfriend—being unaware of the engagement—David (Max Greenfield). Rex and David got into a debate and Rex decided that, in order to prove who is right, the two should arm wrestle. I found this weird because arm wrestling would in no way prove who was correct, but both characters went along with it. During all of this, Jeanette sort of lost her cool.

This seemed very out of place for the character at the time. I know she had her issues with her father, but her intensity and frustration was not properly setup. Maybe I am alone in thinking this, but I just thought the entire arm wrestling scene was way too bizarre and the fallout was unjustified. I have not read the book, so I hope and assume that this scene—if it was in the book—was properly setup. For the movie, however, I did not think there was enough to support Jeanette’s rage at that time. I understood her disappoint and depression, but I did not understand the intense rage.

Grading Scale


Grade: B- (83pts)

The Glass Castle was a pretty decent movie. It had great performances from Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, and Woody Harrelson. I thought the movie was interesting because, while on the surface it looked like this movie is about Jeanette (Brie Larson) the film was actually about Rex (Woody Harrelson), but from Jeanette’s point of view. I thought this was an interesting way to tell the story and I really enjoyed watching the character developments of Jeanette and Rex, as well as watching their relationship evolve throughout Jeanette’s life. My one complaint was that there was not enough character development. This did not mean that I thought that the character development was poor. I thought the character development that was in here was great, but—when dealing with characters based on real people—there is not nearly enough time to fill in all of the blanks from their lives within a two hour film.

The film kept jumping back and forth to different points in Jeanette’s life. It jumped too frequently and did not allow the audience ample time to sink their teeth into each time period. I also did not think Jeanette and David’s relationship worked on screen and I think it hurt the film. I did not feel invested in Jeanette breaking the engagement news to her parents, because I did not feel like Jeanette and David were a good couple. This movie had a few problems, but it was a decent character story that focused on two very interesting people—being Jeanette and Rex. I will warn you, this was not a fast paced film. This was a slow, dramatic character story, so if you enjoy films like that then I definitely recommend seeing this film.

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