Excellent ‘Glass Castle’ is a vivid and moving portrait of family togetherness

Jake Giles Netter, Lionsgate

Naomi Watts, left, as Rose Mary Walls; Woody Harrelson as Rex Walls; Chandler Head as Youngest Jeannette; Iain Armitage as Youngest Brian; and Olivia Kate Rice as Youngest Lori in “The Glass Castle.”

“THE GLASS CASTLE” — 4 stars — Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts, Ella Anderson, Max Greenfield; PG-13 (mature thematic content involving family dysfunction, and for some language and smoking); in general release

Based on the memoir by Jeannette Walls, “The Glass Castle” is the story of how a woman learned to love her family and pull the good from her unique and troubled childhood. It is one of the best films of 2017 so far.

We meet Jeannette (Brie Larson) in 1989, on a dinner date with her financial analyst fiancé, David (Max Greenfield), at a swank Manhattan restaurant. Jeannette is a successful writer for New York Magazine and the picture of up-and-coming metropolitan success. Then on the cab ride home, she and David pass her parents rooting through dumpsters on the city streets.

This jarring juxtaposition is explained through a series of childhood flashbacks that weave in and out of Jeannette’s adult narrative, which has her struggling to reconcile her new lifestyle with her parents, who have been squatting in an abandoned building on New York’s Lower East Side ever since their children have relocated to the city.

From the outset, it is clear why Jeannette’s childhood deserves consideration. Led by her brilliant, eccentric and alcoholic father, Rex (Woody Harrelson), and her oil-painting mother, Rose Mary (Naomi Watts), Jeannette’s family spends her childhood on the move, hopping from home to home as Rex skips from job to job. Rex claims their lifestyle is pure freedom, but more often than not, Jeannette and her three siblings are uprooted as a result of his substance abuses. In one early case, the family skips out on hospital bills after young Jeannette (Chandler Head) burns herself boiling hot dogs unattended.

Rex is a reservoir of knowledge, an aspiring engineer…

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