First Hit: I cannot conceive of having a life like the one described in this film.
This is the story of how Jeannette Walls (Brie Larson, Ella Anderson, and Chandler Head) survived her upbringing by Rex (Woody Harrelson), an alcoholic father, and Rose Mary (Naomi Watts), an unconventional artist mother, to find her own truth and path through life.
Jeannette, her two sisters Lori (Sarah Snook, Sadie Sink, and Olivia Kate Rice), Maureen (Brigette Lundy-Paine, Shree Crooks, and Eden Grace Redfield), and brother Brian (Josh Caras, Charlie Shotwell, and Iain Armitage), never had much of a home as their father and mother spent all their time running from place to place. This dysfunctional family headed by two non-conformists had great dreams and never could put any of them into place.
“Glass Castle” refers to the all glass home Rex designed and never built. This one of thousands of ideas he had for his family. During non-drunk and lucid moments Rex could be an amazing father and mentor. I especially loved how he gave each of the kids the belief that they could pick a star as their own exclusive birthday present.
However when he was drunk or in a bipolar raging state, he was awful to everyone. Rose Mary did her best to temper his expressive raging, however she was an enabler of both the violent and homeless behavior.
After a failed attempt by Rex to get clean and hold a job, the children decided to raise themselves while staying clear of their parents' behavioral issues. This bond between the children was amazing and in the last scene of the film, a Thanksgiving dinner, it was clearly expressed.
I liked the way the scenes shifted from present day back to when the kids were growing up. The actors they chose to play the younger versions of the children were great.
Because the film rarely answered how and when did the family get food and clothing, I kept wondering about these primary subjects throughout the movie.
Harrelson is excellent as the bi-polar father who is an alcoholic, smart, and loved his "goat" Jeanette. His fits of rage as well as his lucid kind moments were well done. Watts is interesting as the mother. I struggled to buy her performance as being solid. At times she seemed disengaged from both the character and from the film. However, it could have been meant this way as well. Larson is very good as the grown daughter with a huge resistance to fully embrace her past. When she finally embraces her past, the shift in her character was perfectly done. Ella Anderson and Chandler Head were great as the younger Jeannette. Sarah Snook, Sadie Sink and Olivia Kate Rice, as Jeannette's older sister Lori, were wonderful. Brigette Lundy-Paine, Shree Crooks and Eden Grace Redfield as Maureen, Jeannettes' younger sister, were perfect. Finally, brother Brian as played by Josh Caras, Charlie Shotwell, and Iain Armitage; all were excellent and very engaging. Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham wrote a strong script from Jeannette Wall’s own book and story. Cretton's direction did a good job of taking us through Jeanette’s story.
Overall: This was an amazing story of persevering through a chaotic childhood.