The Glass Castle

***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Deauville bound: (from left) Sadie Sink, Charlie Shotwell, Woody Harrelson, Ella Anderson, Naomi Watts and Eden Grace Redfield in The Glass Castle, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.
"What makes this better than a smack in the face with a wet cliche is Woody Harrelson's performance"

If it's true, it's new (not!).

Every other film coming out of Hollywood is a "based-on". Is fact stranger than fiction? Ask the blockbusted CGI comic book super hero fantasists. Laughs all round, guys (it's usually guys).

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One question that haunts rational thinkers is, "Why don't victims of domestic abuse leave?"

The Glass Castle has an ironic title and yet for the what's-worth-seeing Friday night crowd it means diddly squat. "Think it, do it" is the mantra of the successful entrepreneur. "Think it, don't do it" is the squashed toad of hope on the pavement of your dreams.

Here's another from the Mom & Pop Advice Manual: "Suffering is character building." It could be character ruin. Flip a coin. Some drown, others make it to the shore.

This is a "based-on" survivor's story. Alcoholic dad, artist mom, four kids, constantly on the move from one dysfunctional fuck up to another. Eccentric yes, dull no.

Rex (Woody Harrelson) has his own views on everything. He believes in freedom of expression which makes him a difficult man to employ. His team skills are negligible. He's a maverick, a lone voice in the city of spin, attractive like the rebel without a cause but scary to live with because at home it's his way or no way and no way carries fury in its gut and whisky in its veins.

Rose (Naomi Watts) has never grown up which means she looks like she did when she was 20. She's kept her figure. Her hair is long. Even without makeup she's a pretty woman. If you asked her why she stays with Rex she will tell you, "Because I love him." He doesn't criticise her paintings, which he might because they're rubbish. He doesn't beat her up all the time. And then there are the kids. If she left what would happen to them? What would happen to him?

The story is told by Jeannette (Brie Larson), who escaped and became a journalist. Childhood was a fractious relationship between father and daughter.

"You learn from living. Everything else is a lie," he tells her.

Out of awe, fear and love his presence dominates the family. This is his movie as much as hers, like watching plates sllde off the bamboo poles of a Chinese acrobat in slow motion. You hear the crowd gasp, as excitement is sucked from their lungs. It's a tumble, a tumble down, a failure of crashing proportions. The children are crying. The clowns rush in. The lights are dimmed.

What makes this better than a smack in the face with a wet cliche is Harrelson's performance. He has an intensity that comes from deep inside. He is not an actor who pretends. He's an actor who takes a role and ingests it like the cannibal king of Method.

As a "based-on" movie this could have been anyone's take. It's Jeannette's because she wrote a book about it. She had courage. She has courage. It shows.

"You were born to change the world, not add to the noise."

He had good ideas. Pity about the toad.

Reviewed on: 30 Sep 2017
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The Glass Castle packshot
A young girl comes of age in a dysfunctional family of nonconformist nomads with an artist mother and an alcoholic father.

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Writer: Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham, based on the book by Jeannette Walls

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, Ella Anderson, Josh Caras, Sarah Snook, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Max Greenfield, Joe Pingue

Year: 2017

Runtime: 127 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

Festivals:

Deauville 2017

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