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New Release Review - THE GLASS CASTLE

the glass castle review
The true story of writer Jeanette Walls' relationship with her abusive alcoholic father.







Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Destin Daniel Cretton

Starring: Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts, Ella Anderson, Max Greenfield, Chander Head

the glass castle uk poster


When it comes to gender roles, Hollywood comedies have long been guilty of a double standard, asking us to empathise with immature and irresponsible man-children while pouring scorn on any women who dare to let their hair down. It's telling that movies like Girls' Trip and Bad Moms, comedies which dare to show women having a good time without subsequently punishing them (ala Trainwreck), are considered revolutionary in 2017. Are such films products of the US or Saudi Arabia?

Even when women in Hollywood comedies are responsible and mature (ie, they've given up their social lives), they then find themselves condemned as uptight stick-in-the-muds who may be able to provide a stable environment for their children, but can they pull off an amusing impersonation of a Scottish nanny? Women simply can't win in the Hollywood comedy, whereas men get to behave like the sort of assholes whom no kid should be raised by.


the glass castle

The Glass Castle isn't a comedy - far from it - but it's guilty of the same sexist mentality you'll find in most Adam Sandler comedies. In Destin Daniel Cretton's disturbingly wrong-headed adaptation of Jeanette Walls' 2005 memoir, the onus is placed on its female protagonist to reconcile with the father who abused her in every way but sexually throughout her childhood, while never placing any responsibility on the abuser to atone for his despicable actions.

When we meet Jeanette first, played by Brie Larson, she's a twentysomething with a successful career as a New York gossip columnist who has just become engaged to investment broker David (Max Greenfield). The latter seems a perfectly nice guy, but the film treats him as an antagonist simply because he's a little bit 'square' (ie, he has his shit together). When Jeanette brings David to visit her parents, Rex (Woody Harrelson) and Rose (Naomi Watts), in their urban squat home, she begins to recall the misery they put her through as a child and teenager.


the glass castle

Through flashbacks, we observe a variety of atrocities committed by Rex, mostly due to his alcoholism, and Rose, largely through her indifference and apathy towards her husband's lifestyle, on the four kids the film often tells us Rex 'loves' without ever giving us any evidence to back up such a hollow claim.

We witness a five-year-old Jeanette suffer disfiguring burns when Rose allows her to boil hot dogs on a stove. Unwilling and unable to pay the hospital bill, Rex orchestrates a breakout of his daughter from the facility. Cretton shoots this in slo-mo and accompanies it with upbeat, inspirational music as though it's some moment of heroism on Rex's part, rather than the first of many abuses we will witness him inflict on his child.


the glass castle

The Glass Castle is a film that doesn't seem to understand that child abuse comes in many forms. It's hard to imagine a film would let Rex off the hook if his abuse of his kids was of a sexual nature; indeed this movie actually introduces a couple of sexual predators just so it can exclaim "See, Rex could be a lot worse!" Failing to provide a child with a stable environment is a form of abuse in itself, and Rex goes out of his way to foster instability for his brood, allowing them to go without food for days at a time while he binges on booze and cigarettes. But hey, he's not a square, so I guess he's allowed a pass.

Maybe I'm cold-hearted, but if my father had treated me in such an awful manner, I wouldn't feel any pangs of guilt about distancing myself from him. The Glass Castle naively attempts to get the viewer to a place where they feel sorry for Rex, making the grownup Jeanette the one who has to offer an olive branch. It's as misogynistic a piece of victim-blaming as could possibly be fashioned from such a relationship. I can't speak for every viewer, but I found it impossible to sympathise with a man who, by rights, should have served time in jail for child abuse.

The Glass Castle is in UK/ROI cinemas October 6th.



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