The Glass Castle

Damaged love

This is the true coming-of-age story of journalist Jeannette Walls and of how she and her three siblings survived their nomadic, irresponsible parenting. The title structure was a big glass house their father claimed he would build one day, mostly to distract his kids from the grinding poverty in which they lived, one step ahead of the bill collectors. The movie is nothing if not character-driven. It’s superbly acted by the always-excellent Brie Larsen as the grown Jeannette, Ella Anderson as the child Jeannette (a talent to watch) Naomi Watts in an underwritten part as the artsy mother, and Woody Harrelson in the pivotal role of Rex, their drunken, brilliant, delusional, loving, effective, screw-up of a father. Woody has never played a more complex character. Destin Daniel Cretton’s (he made the excellent Short Term 12) film is far from perfect; it’s overlong, somewhat repetitive, the flashback-heavy structure is unnecessary, and the redemption-seeking denouement rings a tad artificial. But it got to me. A movie for lovers of good acting. (127 min)