By MEGHAN PIERCE
There is a piece of advice often given to writers: the more specific you are the more universal your story will be. The Glass Castle, based on the bestselling memoir by Jeannette Walls, is the perfect example of this advice to me.
The hold our families can have on us, especially dysfunctional ones, can hang on well into adulthood. Parents loom large in our lives as children. They are our heroes even when they are drowning in their own problems, even when they let us down, even when they are selfish. But it’s when you can embrace the best your parents gave you and forgive or let go of their worst is when your best life can begin.
Brie Larson gives a great performance as Jeannette, along with several young actresses who play her as the younger Jeannette.
Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts are brilliant as Jeanette’s Rex and Rose Mary Walls and my hats off to the hair and make-up crew who made their shift between different ages seamless.
The movie goes back and forth to different moments in Jeannette’s childhood. Many moments are revisited, showing the parents in different lights.
The movie begins with Jeannette as a successful gossip columnist in New York City. She hides her past, clings to her career success and scoffs at her parents (now living homeless in New York City to be closer to their grown children) when they tell her she’s not living up to her potential and that it would be a mistake to marry the investment banker.
We learn about the glass castle in flashbacks. It’s the glass, solar-powered house, Harrelson’s character is going to build the family. He talks and talks and talks about it while the family moves from place to place sometimes homeless, sometimes living in homes with no electricity or running water. Her father is a charismatic genius who inspires Jeannette and her siblings to believe in the glass castle.
It’s a dream the children all believe in, till they don’t.
I haven’t read the book so watching the movie for me was like unraveling a mystery. Are her parents free-spirits, unconventional, misunderstood? No they are selfish people. They must be mentally ill. They are an alcoholic and their co-department mate. No they are just damaged people themselves. They love their children fiercely. They are criminally neglectful of their children. Emotionally abusive. Ultimately they are survivors of whatever demons they were fighting themselves.
I highly recommend The Glass Castle, but it is a heavy drama. The movie is rated PG-13, but I would only recommend the movie for older teens and up. Bring a box of tissues and stay for the credits to see photos and film of the real Walls family.
The Glass Castle opened August 11. It is running at The Peterborough Community Theatre through Sept. 6.