The Glass Castle is based off of the memoir of the same name by Jeannette Walls that was on the New York Times bestseller list for years. It's about the Walls family; the two parents, Rex and Rose Mary Walls, and the four siblings, in order of age from oldest to youngest: Lori, Jeannette, Brian, and Maureen. Rose Mary was a painter and Rex was a dreamer. He dreamed ever since Jennette can remember, of building a glass castle. The thing is, Rex dreams too much and is outside of civilization. He believes in life outside of the norm. He wants the Walls children to do something big, not just add to the noise. He wants them to be revolutionary and try things where he says what's best for them, not some dumb educated hillbilly that never slept in the desert or partied till they were passed out, that never knew what it took to live. He's drunk too, though. In the movie, Jeannette recounts during her days in New York City being engaged to her BF David in an apartment and working for a newspaper her youth of struggle, self-education and heartbreak learning how to get by in the world sometimes without her parents.
Now, I read the book about a year ago because my roommate liked it. And I was at first hesitant because I'd never reviewed a non-fiction book before. I still read it, and decided not to give it a rating because I review the story, writing, characters, how I felt reading it, and whatever ingredients end up baked in along the way, and two of those I wouldn't be able to review because those events and the way people acted weren't up to the author. And I finished it with several memorable and sometimes heart-breaking moments in my head but I felt it was a memoir of listed events and that was it. The movie version brought the dimension and dreams of this family alive, erasing any of the slow-pacing from the book that had to be in there to recap the memoir correctly, and bringing front and centre the hopes and nightmares of their lives.
When Jeannette was 3, she cooked hot dogs while her mother was distracted with a painting and her dress caught on fire. There's a scene that brings up to this, and I got chills from just what was on screen. The doctors were also stern about how she was treated, and Rex, played by Woody Harrelson, beats down on this doctor with a delivery that I pictured when reading the book perfectly. I imagined what would end up happening if the authorities finally caught up with this family, but I didn't need to know. The way the movie made it so the book seemed more exciting, which was what I think the book primarily lacked (I may be hating on the book a lot, but I swear, it's not that bad. If anything, I'm duly impressed Jeanette was able to remember as many quotes and situations as she did.). Ella Anderson, who played the young Jeannette, Brie Larson who played the grown-up Jeanette, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts as the sugar-high mother, are all perfection. Anderson brings the fear front and centre and Harrelson knows when to be dangerously cheery or ferociously angry and scary. Watts manages to show that there's possibility for this lady out in the world and manages to deliver her lines so we understand her denial about reality.
Even a scene that almost led to sex had the perfect balance of smart ideas and somber attitude. Jeanette is asked to get in bed with a man and what happens next is thought-provoking without the necessary dialogue explanation. There's a chance that lasts about 12 seconds that I think will, thanks to the performances and history, be remembered by anyone who sees it for years, as well as a climax that is about as dramatic as a film can get, showing off one of the best scenes from the book that had me flabbergasted and angry. This movie brought it up about 5 times.
These days, I don't give many A+s even though I want to. I guess when I find a movie that I just love, I watch another movie and just don't see the same amount in value or addictiveness. These days, an A+ means it either touched me, made me think, made me chew my fingernails out, made me want to watch it again...That kind of thing. The Glass Castle used what it had at its disposal and turned it into a movie worthy of the list.