Like everyone else, I sat engrossed reading The Glass Castle a decade ago, quite astounded that I'd become so bewitched by a memoir involving an impoverished, dysfunctional family of hillbillies. I could not put the obscure little treasure away, devouring it in perhaps three sittings across a week. You'll recall that it spent 261 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list, eventually selling 2.7 million copies in 22 languages and receiving three literary awards for excellence. For my money, it's right up there with Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, which is as tight and elegiacal and poetic and earnest and soaring a book as any one reader might hope to discover in a lifetime.
Critics have been somewhat harsh toward The Glass Castle's film adaptation, but THEY ARE WRONG.
Is it perfect? No.
But neither are its subjects, or the wide-ranging, far-fetched nature of their nomadic existence.
Whatever the film's shortcomings, however, they are few and far between and completely assuaged by its rhapsodic heights.
I find The Glass Castle wonderfully satisfying, and Woody Harrelson is breathtakingly flawless as the flawed patriarch. He delivers not one single false note in 2 hours and 7 minutes of screen time, and his ability to shift gears—from sullen drunk to dreamy glass castle architect to chaotic leader to philosophical and warm-hearted bequeather of stars—is smooth and silky as an Italian ten-speed. We know he's a white hot mess, but we'd follow him anywhere, and do. Every time his family piles into the car to abandon him, they eventually return wide-smiled to recruit him again.
"I have so much to regret," he laments on his deathbed, to which his eldest daughter replies, "I'm just like you, and I'm glad."
<< commence waterworks now >>
He loved his drink, the only salve that half-silenced the hounds of his youth, but he loved his family even more. Despite his disorders and the familial havoc he periodically unleashed on those around him, his family soldiers on and eventually counts themselves "lucky."
One can only hope for as much in a world rotting from the family out.
Rex is no Captain Fantastic—and I've no desire to romanticize hunger, homelessness, or alcoholism, as not everyone walks away unscathed—but there is something endearing about a family that scrapes and claws and inadvertently builds a moat around their seventh home whilst meaning to build the foundations to their castle in the sky.
Do stay for the end credits, so you can see for yourself how these crazy cats land on their feet.