Samuel L Jackson is cited as the hardest working man in showbiz in terms of the number of films he makes in a year but especially in terms of their box office gross. But there are others who have an equally high turnover of films released in a year with Michael Fassbender being an obvious contender with Alien Covenant, Assassin’s Creed and Song to Song already having been released and ‘The Snowman’ only weeks away. Overlooked probably due to the films not doing Samuel L Jackson box office business is Woody Harrelson who this year alone has appeared in Wilson, War for the Planet of the Apes and most spectacularly of all directed a one take recorded as live film in London titled ‘Lost in London’. His latest is ‘The Glass Castle’ an adaptation of Jeanette Walls book in what appears to probably be a bid for an Oscar nomination as here he portrays a loving father to four children but leads an itinerant lifestyle as he drags his family around the US as he gets sacked or bored with each job he has. He’s a dreamer too with big ideas of what he’s going to do but which never come to fruition and the semi derelict house they ultimately move into becomes a symbol of thwarted ambition.
This is all seen through the eyes of his eldest daughter, Jeanette (Ella Anderson) something which we are all unaware of when we first meet her as an adult played by Brie Larson at a swanky restaurant with her well to do fiance, a finance broker, out to impress a new client in a bid to get his business. Yet she bristles with indignation at what the client says and can’t help herself mentioning how she educated herself and escaped from the highly unstable life she had as a child. From hereonin we see her life in flashback with her father dragging the family from pillar to post with her equally flaky artist mother, (an almost unrecognisable Naomi Watts) knocking out paintings with little interest from buyers. Initially it’s clear what the attraction would be for kids who are allowed to lead, whilst not exactly a feral lifestyle, is certainly one where they are given a freedom without boundaries to do what they want and ultimately learn from their parents mistakes .Inevitably as they grow up they begin to resent their parents and its Jeanette who, having realised that their lives, which seem to be constantly on the poverty line, are going nowhere begins to save money in a bid to escape. Their poverty is underlined in a truly heartbreaking scene where the children are so hungry they go down to the fridge in the middle of the night only to find some butter and sugar. Desperate to eat they mix them together and wolf it down to sate their hunger only to be remonstrared by their mother who was saving it to have with bread the following day. ‘What bread?’ one of the asks, ’We haven’t eaten for three days!’ From here their father goes out to get food to feed them only to return hours later steaming drunk. It’s a pivotal part of the film but never really manages to elicit the audience’s tears and that overall is the problem with the film. These autobiographical true life stories about fighting their way out of poverty are only occasionally successful and The Glass Castle never really elicits the emotion that these sort of films crave. Which is a shame as this is undoubtedly one of those films which strives to do so and centres around the increasingly fractious father daughter love/hate relationship and Woody Harrelson as the alcoholic free spirit who adopts a sink or swim attitude to his children’s welfare is ably supported by Ella Anderson as the eldest daughter who comes to realise that her delusionally optimistic father is never going to give her the life she really wants and ironically it’s his sink or swim attitude that has her branching out to get what she wants in life.
These stories of adversity though decent enough books don’t always lend themselves to making great films and as worthy as this is with its life lessons about clashing values is ultimately just a little bit dull.
Here’s the trailer……..