Mis­ery porn at its most dis­hon­est

Thanks to Woody Har­rel­son, Brie Lar­son and the tal­ented child stars, this adap­ta­tion of a best­selling mem­oir by Jeannette Walls is at least soapishly watch­able,

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - writes Tara Brady

THE GLASS CAS­TLE Di­rected by Destin Daniel Cret­ton. Star­ring Brie Lar­son, Woody Har­rel­son, Max Green­field, Sarah Snook, Naomi Watts. Cert 12A, gen re­lease, 127mins The Glass Cas­tle, based on Jeannette Walls’s hit 2005 mis­ery mem­oir of the same name, could eas­ily ac­com­mo­date the sub­head­ing: “Not a child in the house washed.” Or in­deed fed.

As this un­even adap­ta­tion opens, Jeannette, one of three ne­glected chil­dren, is call­ing for food. Her di­shev­elled mother con­tin­ues to paint one of her am­a­teur can­vasses and in­structs the tot to get her own din­ner. In­evitably, the child sets her­self on fire and awak­ens in hos­pi­tal, where a doc­tor and and so­cial worker hover. Later, we’ll mar­vel that her par­ents even both­ered with med­i­cal treat­ment.

The Walls fam­ily, in­clud­ing a dis­tant, pow­er­less mom (Naomi Watts with mussed-up hair), a con­trol­ling, al­co­holic fa­ther (Woody Har­rel­son) and, even­tu­ally, four hun­gry chil­dren, spend years on the road, as dad loses jobs or gets in trou­ble with the law. They fi­nally set­tle in whitest-trash Vir­ginia near their even more abu­sive grand­mother.

Destin Daniel Cret­ton’s film cuts be­tween Walls’s adult life in 1989, an ex­is­tence de­fined by

a suc­cess­ful job in New York

Mag­a­zine, a fancy fi­nan­cial ad­viser fiance, a lux­u­ri­ous Man­hat­tan apart­ment, and taxi­ing past mom and dad (now squat­ting on the Lower East Side) as they ri­fle through bins.

The folks con­tin­u­ally in­trude on her life, with dad ex­plain­ing that this “isn’t re­ally her” and that her dot­ing hus­band-to-be needs to go. These bla­tant at­tempts at sab­o­tage are treated, by the mud­dled screen­play, as life lessons to be heeded.

Flash­backs de­pict the chil­dren eat­ing but­ter and sugar, if at all; sav­ing their mother from be­ing thrown from a win­dow; and be­ing de­lib­er­ately dumped with sex­ual preda­tors. There are also scenes – which are a real thing and a metaphor – of Jeanette get­ting re­peat­edly thrown in the deep end of a swim­ming pool un­til she can swim.

Even Destin Daniel Cret­ton, direc­tor of the ex­cel­lent Short Term 12, can’t quite shore up these con­tra­dic­tions. Ac­cord­ingly, hor­rors are ac­com­pa­nied by the syrupy strings of Joel P West’s score and the hon­eyed cin­e­matog­ra­phy of Brett Pawlak. The di­lap­i­dated hill­billy huts are art­fully dis­tressed.

It’s mis­ery porn at its most pret­tily dis­hon­est, but against all odds, Har­rel­son, Brie Lar­son and a gag­gle of tal­ented child stars ren­der it soapishly watch­able.

Clev­erly hill­billy Sadie Sink, Char­lie Shotwell, Ella An­der­son, Woody Har­rel­son, Naomi Watts and Eden Grace Red­field in The Glass Cas­tle

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