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‘The Glass Castle’ cracks under lofty expectations

“The Glass Castle” starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts, was disappointedly average as it struggled to maintain the intense emotion Jeanette Walls brought to readers with her memoir of the same name.

The film explores the extremely unconventional upbringing of Walls and her three siblings. They moved constantly and were often left to their own devices while their free-spirited parents straddled the line between instability and brilliant bouts of life lessons.

The plot moved slowly at times despite the numerous jumps in the timeline of Walls’ life, which created a few continuity issues. The actresses chosen to play young Jeanette Walls looked so unlike Brie Larson’s modern-day Walls that it was a distraction. Larson also portrayed the 18-year-old version of Walls: a whole new level of unrealistic.

Furthermore, the jumps were perfectly symmetrical in terms of scenes that would either produce sympathy or hatred towards Walls’ father, Rex. While I’m sure this was done intentionally to expose the rollercoaster of emotions Jeanette associated with his alcoholism and manipulations, it didn’t transfer as well onto the big screen.

The dramatization of certain scenes for cinematic effect also failed to accurately encapsulate Walls’ intention behind initially writing the memoir. Throughout the film, there was more of a focus on spoon-feeding the audience specific instances from her childhood rather than evoking the implications that accompany such disorderly living conditions.

If I didn’t know and love the book so dearly, I’m sure my critique wouldn’t be quite as harsh. In general, it’s difficult to analyze movies that weren’t god-awful but were also far from wonderful. When you throw high expectations and pre-conceived biases into the mix, it becomes even messier.

There certainly were some solid moments between Larson and Harrelson, yet they didn’t live up to their tear-inducing potential. In fact, a lot of Larson’s acting seemed forced. I left the theater hating the character, an emotion I never took away from the novel. The emphasis of the film was far too focused on her rebelling against her father, and I wasn’t a fan.

Max Greenfield’s role as Walls’ fiancé was also integrated too heavily into the story. Greenfield already irks me as an actor for no apparent reason, so the fact that entire scenes were created specifically for his character was extremely unnecessary and upsetting.

“The Glass Castle” does receive creativity points for a lot of its editing cuts. The accompanying soundtrack was also appropriate and went well with the shots of the various towns Walls grew up in.

As with many adapted screenplays, a lot of the intricacies from the novel get glazed over and simply lost in translation from page to screen. My opinion is clearly swayed by so heavily comparing it to the book, but I still recommend checking it out once it comes to Redbox.

All in all, it was a cute, little story, and without any background knowledge, it would have been a much better movie-viewing experience.

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