Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Glass Castle


We saw this several months ago and I have put off reviewing it because I hated one of the characters so much I was reluctant to write about him. It is the true story of Jeanette Walls, who is now an author and journalist, but who grew up in one of the worst households I’ve ever seen where the children were not actually physically beaten (much) or sexually abused. It was a total failure of child protective services. She and her siblings should never have been allowed to remain with their monster of a father and totally useless “artist” mother.

Woody Harrelson is the father, and he turns in a performance so ugly that I’d happily have killed him ten minutes into the film. Naomi Watts is the mother who loves the piece of shit so much that she won’t protect her children from him. Brie Larson is Jeanette as a young adult, after two children played her at younger ages.

Man, I have known several people exactly like this monster Rex Walls. Their heads are full of grandiose plans, and they have absolutely no ability to deliver on them. As long as they pursue their pipe dreams alone, who gives a shit? But he makes his family pay for it, really, really pay for it in every way possible. The “castle” of the title is a glass house he intends to build. He has tons of blueprints for it. At one point he actually has his kids digging a hole for the foundation, which astonished me. These dudes seldom get that far. And that’s as far as he got. A fucking hole in the ground. It soon filled up with the garbage he couldn’t be bothered to get rid of.

Another common thing about these monsters is that they justify their “alternative” lifestyle by claiming to be free spirits, who really can’t be bothered with anything other than their projects. They blame outside forces for all their failures. The government is a favorite fall guy. You want a sure-fire test for a loser? Listen to him rant and rave about how the powerful people above him are to blame for all the things he has failed to do.

He basically keeps his family hostage. He loves them so much that he won’t let them go. I suppose he’s bi-polar, but he is also an alcoholic. Every time he gets a few bucks ahead he goes on a bender and drinks it all up. Usually he gets the crap beaten out of him as a bonus, since he is also a mean drunk. I wonder if it is because when he’s got a snootful, he realizes just what a stinking pile of buzzard turds he really is. The kids save up their pennies, hoping to buy a bus ticket so one of them can make her escape, but he finds the money jar and pours it all down his insatiable gullet. At that point I decided that killing the motherfucker would not be nearly good enough. Rendition to a country where they don’t mind torturing people would make me a lot happier.

I could go on and on about his total awfulness, and maybe fifteen minutes before the end I was still willing to admit that it was a good film about a horrible man, like Raging Bull. But then he was dying in a squatter tenement, and Jeanette visits him … and they sort of reconcile! Sorry, folks. I think forgiveness is a good thing, and I’m willing to forgive a lot, but not this man. The book this was based on was on the Times bestseller list for an amazing 261 weeks. I haven’t read it, but those who have seem to have all howled foul! They tidied up the ending a lot. And so now I can say I truly hate this movie, every fucking frame of it. The writers should be ashamed of themselves.