Film Review: The Glass Castle
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The Glass Castle is based on Jeannette Walls’ best-selling memoir of the same name, published in 2005 and recounting the unconventional, nomadic, and impoverished upbringing she, along with her three siblings, experienced in the care of their dangerously dysfunctional parents. Cretton’s feature film adaptation thrusts viewers right into the depths of the tale’s core: an uncomfortable and precarious balance of whimsical and loving family dynamics, against dark and disturbing undercurrents, that will manifest explosively. Rose Mary, Jeannette’s mother, finds her artistic expression to be her greatest and only priority, resulting in a harrowing accident as the child, starving, attempts to cook for herself, only to be rushed to hospital with third degree burns. This scene is used to introduce the family and their condition, but then sets the sequence played out to upbeat music and disconcertingly comic energy. It both introduces the childlike wonder our protagonist feels for her father in particular, and the growing sense of what can only be described as her abuse at the hands of one she so reveres. At its core it’s a character study, a family portrait anchored by its father-daughter relationship. It’s perspective on it, through Jeannette’s eyes, shifts from her worshipping, child self through to her adult, disillusioned self. In this, the film tears itself forward and backwards in time, shifting between the 1960s, during which the family tears across America to escape bill collectors or lawmen, and which deals with devastating topics of addiction, child molestation and extreme poverty, and the 1980s during which Jeannette lives as a successful gossip columnist in New York City, with her boring banker fiancé.
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