Movie Review: The Glass Castle Is a Flawed Monument


Sarah Nicholson | Staff Writer

There is grit in perfection. I think this is true in pearls as much as in life. No matter how perfect things seem, there is always something that dug at the person, circumstance, or place that made it excel and push itself into something else. Love can be that way too. The Glass Castle follows the true story of Jeannette Walls and her unconventional upbringing by an alcoholic father and painting obsessed mother. The movie jumps back and forth between moments from her childhood and her life in the early 1990’s New York. The newly engaged and successful gossip columnist is trying to reconcile her hobo upbringing with her desire for a ‘normal’, socially acceptable life. There is no better word to describe Jeannette’s journey quite frankly than grit. I won’t say that this is a feel-good movie, but it is a pretty solid drama.

I’m going to start why this story works. I loved the honesty in the piece. It’s easy to gloss over the inconvenient parts when telling stories about your own life, but she doesn’t pull any punches. There is not a metaphor or reaching allusion. You see the neglect, the delusion, desperation, and fear that permeates every aspect of her early life. Most importantly you see Jeannette viewing her parents not only as an idealistic child but as a wise-beyond-her-years young girl. She understands that her mother has tunnel vision in terms of their life. She also understands her father’s demons live within him long before he ever does and she loves him anyway, even when given little reason too.

I don’t see this movie solely as a commentary on abusive relationships, though it does host that subject. I think that its value comes in showing a woman who chooses to face her demons rather than letting them consume her. The Glass Castle looks at flawed, real, messy, drowning people, who are barely treading water, but who manage to rise through their own determination. There is a theme in movies where parents are supposed to be the saviors of their children and what I really loved about this story is that narrative is flipped on its head. The children really do save the parents in many respects. “Supposed to” does not apply.

That’s not to say that it is perfect, however. While I did enjoy the movie, it loses traction in different places. Extremely long flashbacks tend to make the watcher disconnect with the adult Jeannette. The pacing is a little all over the place and some of the more artistic elements I think thin the story overall. Something I really would have liked to see was more of a connection between characters. While this is told largely from Jeannette’s point of view, it feels like she is detached from everyone, even her siblings who she’s supposed to extremely connected to. None of this shoots the film in the foot, but it does make it about a half hour longer than it really needed to be. If you are, however, still looking for more after the movie, having found it the perfect blend of heart and torment, it is based on a novel of the same name, by Jeannette Walls.