The Oscar buzz surrounding Brie Larson started with her remarkable performance in “Short Term 12.” Although she didn’t secure a nomination, the film catapulted her career to new heights. A few years later, Larson teamed up with Destin Daniel Cretton once again, the director of “Short Term 12,” for their latest collaboration, “The Glass Castle.” This film had all the ingredients to become one of the standout titles of 2017 and a potential Oscar contender. However, it falls short of expectations, offering an uneven melodrama with moments of brilliance but ultimately lacking a cohesive flow.
A Tale of Imbalance
Both “Short Term 12” and “The Glass Castle” draw inspiration from real-life experiences. However, while Cretton based the former on his personal encounters, the latter relies on the memoirs of Jeannette Walls, the main character. Perhaps due to this limitation, the film’s structure presents an episodic nature that hinders the audience’s ability to empathize fully. Constant time jumps attempt to illustrate how Larson’s character becomes the woman she is today. Yet, instead of a cohesive cinematic rhythm, “The Glass Castle” never finds its footing. Moments of significance are magnified, while the overall narrative struggles to maintain fluidity, leading to occasional confusion regarding character dynamics, most notably in a scene set in the protagonist’s university dorm room.
Although the film does have impactful scenes that partially compensate for its shortcomings, it ultimately falls into the same traps. This diminishes its potential as a classic melodrama, a genre Cretton aims to harness through his direction. Regrettably, the emotional cohesion necessary for a compelling story lacks consistency, leaving the audience’s interest primarily anchored to the exceptional performances of its cast.
The Cast Shines Through
Larson’s performance suffers from the lack of dramatic continuity, preventing her from delivering a consistently outstanding portrayal. Surprisingly, Chandler Head and Ella Anderson, who play the same character at a younger age, offer more consistent and controlled dramatic performances. Larson, on the other hand, experiences fluctuations in her character’s behavior, even struggling to maintain the necessary composure.
However, Woody Harrelson’s performance remains a constant asset throughout the film. His character carries an unwavering attitude, even when battling his evident alcoholism. While Naomi Watts’s character occasionally fades into the background due to the dominating presence of Harrelson’s role, his portrayal consistently captures the raw essence Cretton aims to convey, albeit intermittently.
Interestingly, this dysfunctional family bears some resemblance to the captivating vision showcased in “Captain Fantastic.” However, unlike Matt Ross’s film, which successfully spotlights the intricacies of an unconventional lifestyle, “The Glass Castle” focuses primarily on the impact this environment had on the protagonist. This choice is understandable since the story is based on Jeannette Walls’s memoirs. However, the film finds more success in its flashback sequences, displaying occasional weaknesses when returning to the character’s present-day reality.
In conclusion, “The Glass Castle” falls short of its predecessor, “Short Term 12,” in Larson’s collaboration with Destin Daniel Cretton. It struggles to find the perfect balance between a realistic touch reminiscent of their prior film and its ambition to become a remarkable melodrama. Despite its intermittent brilliance, especially in the standout performances, notably by Woody Harrelson, the film manages to hold the viewer’s attention without wasting their time, leaving a bittersweet aftertaste.