Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Glass Castle: Monday, August 14 2017

The Glass Castle (2017) is based on the book of the same name by Jeannette Walls. Directed and written by Destin Daniel Cretton, it is an American drama, filmed mainly in Welch, West Virginia, where much of the story of Jeannette Walls' life is set. The acting is superb, and the characters brought to life are almost too realistic. Woody Harrelson as Jeannette's father, is incredible. Brie Larson as Jeannette Walls, is also totally believable. Jeanette's mother, elder sister Lori, brother Brian, and younger sister Maureen, are all played so well and sincerely that they remain in my mind as memorable people. It was almost too true!

What a pity that the film doesn't treat the story as did the book. Jeannette was perhaps a little kinder when she drew the picture of her parents, emphasising their eccentricities. She looked at them without judgement. The book left us with the feeling of a family that may have been poor due to the addiction of the father to alcohol, but, nevertheless, loved each other. This love was what eventually saved Jeannette. Instead of herself becoming like her parents, she was able to encourage her elder sister, Lori, to go to New York, and then, to follow her. Their brother Brian joined them, as did their youngest sister, Maureen. Jeannette completed her education in New York on scholarships, and became a newspaper reporter, columnist and writer.

The book is a story of a family of children overcoming what seem almost insurmountable difficulties, to achieve success in life. It's the story of a hero, in this case Jeannette Walls, overcoming a ghastly childhood and encouraging her siblings to do likewise. It entertained us, and left us "feeling good", sort of.

The film presents us with the too realistic picture of the dysfunctional family of two totally self-centred people, who should never have been parents. They are both so narcissistic it seems to border on mental illness. In fact, it made me ask myself, is a narcissistic personality actually mentally ill? The appalling life led by the children as a result of the actions of their parents, is revolting. Even when the children all move to New York the parents follow, and still create havoc in the lives of their off-spring. When it is revealed that the mother has been resisting selling land that would have brought her $1,000,000, and given her children a much better life, we are appalled. In the film, when Jeannette allowed her family to destroy her first marriage, she lost my sympathy. She had made the move to New York to leave them behind, yet not made the final severance from them. Her younger sister, Maureen, finally does make that break, and moves to California.

Maureen said that she has never, ever seen a film she liked less that The Glass Castle. Sheri found it depressing as it hit too home for her comfort. Kalpna said that, in her opinion, one has to be a masochist to enjoy this film. This seems to be the general opinion about it. If one wants a realistic anthropological study of a dysfunctional family, this would be ideal. The one thing missing, as far as we know, is that the parents didn't use physical abuse on their children. As a social study it is also interesting and raises many questions. But entertainment it is not. Nor does it leave the audience "feeling good". In fact, it left me feeling disturbed. I didn't like any of these people. I was appalled by their behaviour. I really wanted nothing to do with them, even if only in a film.

It left me questioning how it is that I, who haven't taken any courses in storytelling, have a pretty good idea of what makes a story entertaining and how to leave the audience feeling happy? Perhaps it was all those hours spent reading Shakespeare in school, and later, for pleasure. The time spent reading so many of the classics perhaps haven't been wasted. It would appear that so many of the people producing films, who, we presume, have been trained, forget all the efforts of their teachers. Otherwise, why would they make such awful movies?

This is not a film I could recommend anyone pay money to see!

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