The Glass Castle Parent Guide
Complicated, engaging, inspiring and possibly disturbing, Jeannette-Walls' description of growing up in a dysfunctional family may catch some audience members by surprise.
Parent Movie Review
Complicated, engaging, inspiring and possibly disturbing, The Glass Castle, with its US PG-13 rating, defines the need for “parental guidance”. Not likely to be on the top of your teen’s gotta-see list anyway, this story is based on the real-life memoir of Jeannette Walls. Her description of growing up as the daughter a dysfunctional father and mother may catch some audience members by surprise… especially if abusive behavior lurks in their life history.
Scenes of neglect, verbal and physical domestic abuse, a lack of providing protection or the necessities of life, and a moment of sexual abuse punctuate the memories depicted in this story of the Walls family.
Rex (Woody Harrelson), a former Air Force pilot, and Rose Mary (Naomi Watts), an artist of dubious talent, have brought four children into the world. Covering a complete generation of time, a variety of actors play eldest Lori (Sarah Snook/Sadie Sink/Olivia Kate Rice), Jeanette (Brie Larson/Ella Anderson/Chandler Head), son Brian (Josh Caras/Charlie Stowell/Iain Armitage) and youngest sibling Maureen (Brigette Lundy-Paine/Shree Crooks/Eden Grace Redfield).
Deftly edited between her adult life in 1989, as Jeanette works as a gossip columnist for a prestigious New York publication, and her childhood in the Southwestern US, we are introduced to a family descending into crisis. Rex, when he is sober, is an intelligent and creative man. But as he falls further into alcoholism his best full-time “job” is avoiding debt collectors. Like a well-orchestrated fire drill, the wife and kids regularly pack their meager belongings into a rusting vehicle and flee to the next abandoned building.
Seeking shelter anywhere they can find it and bathing the kids at public swimming pools, Rose Mary suggests they move back to West Virginia where Rex’s parents live. Her request implies hope that the cheaper cost of living and some family support will allow them to continue. Rex is reluctant to return to the home of his youth but, after physically assaulting a lifeguard who questioned the harsh method he uses to teach Jeanette to swim, he knows they must leave the area or face questions from police and child services.
The decision to be nearer to Rex’s mom, dad and brother only reveals more skeletons within this family’s closet. Meanwhile, the parallel events unfolding in Jeannette’s present world effectively illustrate how past experiences become the foundation for adult decisions. This comparison leads to the movie’s most valuable message about our capacity to overcome our childhood. The adult Jeannette’s example is particularly persuasive while we watch her consider a marriage relationship with a man (Max Greenfield) who offers financial support, yet appears to have a penchant for drinking and twisting the truth—much like her father.
Stellar performances from this large cast add to this compelling drama. Woody Harrelson portrays with precision a drunk who swings between poetically grand, and cruelly petty. Naomi Watts vacillates between wanting to get as far away from this madman as she can and falling comfortably back into his controlling arms. And the young actors playing the children genuinely portray the anguish of being caught in the middle.
What sets The Glass Castle apart from legions of other films about family dysfunction are the lessons and examples it offers. As the number of years grow since she was dependent on her parents, Jeanette is finally able to remember the better father that was buried beneath the addiction. It’s a moving, albeit somewhat contrived, conclusion that not only leaves Jeanette in a better position to progress in her life, but may have a similar effect on audiences as well.Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton . Starring Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, Woody Harrelson . Running time: 127 minutes. Theatrical release August 11, 2017. Updated August 17, 2017
The Glass Castle
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Glass Castle rated PG-13? The Glass Castle is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for mature thematic content involving family dysfunction, and for some language and smoking.
A child’s clothes catch on fire and injuries/scars from her burn are shown a few times. Other bloody wounds are seen, and a child uses a sewing needle to stitch together an adult’s deep cut. An adult runs away from paying bills, and avoids questioning from police and family service officers. Characters drive recklessly. Children are neglect, put in dangerous situations, and left unfed. Physical abuse portrayed includes hitting, biting, choking, wrestling and punching: these physical altercations occurs between adults, as well as between children and adults. A woman is thrown out of a window and is seen hanging onto the sill to keep from falling. Angry and/or drunk characters lash out verbally, kick and break things, as well as hit people. Characters bully and berate others and threaten them. Characters lie to keep things secret and to get things they want. A parent teaches his children to lie and to hustle others. Gambling and stealing are portrayed. Child sexual molestation is implied, briefly depicted and discussed. A man ties himself to a bed and screams in agony while going through alcohol withdraw.
An unmarried couple live together. A married couple kiss and embrace, sometimes tenderly and at other times during physical struggling. An older man tries to seduce a young woman: he falls on top of her while they are dancing and tries to undress her. A woman undresses in front of a man (her bra is seen). Mild sexual references, and innuendo are heard.
Frequent use of mild and moderate profanity, scatological slang, terms of deity, name-calling, slurs and rude slang terms.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A man is depicted as an alcoholic and is often drunk. Drinking alcohol from bottles (including moonshine), social imbibing, and smoking are frequently shown. A character bullies another into getting drunk.
Page last updated August 17, 2017
The Glass Castle Parents' Guide
Rex is an abusive alcoholic and the things he puts his children through are harmful—both physically and psychologically. However, his children (and the audience) still see glimpses of a creative, intelligent man who loves his family. Can a person to be both “good” and “bad”? How are we often encouraged to classify someone with just one label? Is this an accurate way of assessing individuals? Is it possible to love someone, even if we don’t like them? When is it necessary to estrange ourselves to protect us from being harmed?
What do the children in this movie learn about their ability to make positive life decisions despite what happened to them during as children? Do you feel all childhood abuse can be overcome? Is moving beyond the past necessary? What may happen if we choose to dwell on painful events?
Rex feels being in the “real world” is better than an education in school. Does he have a point? What are the drawbacks of classroom education? What are the benefits? How much right should parents have in determining the type of education their children require?
This family often lives without plumbing or electricity. Many families lived that way 100 years ago. How have the necessities of life changed? If you can talk with a grandparent or great-grandparent, ask them what their expectations of life were during childhood. What things are we missing today that may be considered essential to raising a child 100 years from now?
News About "The Glass Castle"
This movie is based on a The Glass Castle, which spent 261 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list. It has also been translated into 22 languages.
A memoir by Jeannette Walls, the story details the many challenges she faced when her childhood gets caught in the wake of her parents' irresponsible behavior.
The film features an Academy Award winning/nominated cast: Bree Larson (Winner: Best Actress for Room), Woody Harrelson (Nominated Best Actor for The People vs. Larry Flynt, Nominated Best Supporting Actor for The Messenger) and Naomi Watts (Nominated Best Actress: The Impossible).